Hysteresis of airways and lung parenchymal recoil was examined in normal subjects by measuring specific conductance (sGaw) and lung elastic recoil (Pst,L) before and 5, 10, 15, and 30 s after deep inspiration (DI). Routine lung function tests were normal before and after inhaled metaproterenol. sGaw increased significantly for 10 s after DI. Also, sGaw(DI) was greater than sGaw in 11 of 12, 8 of 12, 7 of 12, and 6 of 12 subjects at 5, 10, 15, and 30 s, respectively, after DI. The response of sGaw to DI and metaproterenol correlated significantly with each other (r = 0.82, P less than 0.001). However, after metaproterenol, sGaw(DI) did not exceed sGaw. Pst,L decreased significantly for 15 s after DI, with the lowest measured Pst,L(DI) values occurring 5 s after DI (P less than 0.01-0.001). Both sGaw(DI) and Pst,L(DI) values returned to base line (preinspiration) in a time-dependent exponential manner, with time constants of 9.2 +/- 4.9 and 11.3 +/- 6.1 s, respectively; these time constants were not significantly different from each other. We conclude that airways hysteresis is the predominant finding in normal subjects (even without prior pharmacological bronchoconstriction) before but not after metaproterenol; Pst,L decreases after DI and, in normal individuals, returns to base line in a time-dependent manner; and the time-dependent behavior of airways and lung parenchymal hysteresis have opposite (and unequal) effects on airway caliber.