Rhinovirus infections cause over one third of all colds and are a contributing factor to exacerbations of asthma. To gain insights into the early biochemical events that occur in infected epithelial cells, we develop, for the first time, a model in which a pure respiratory epithelial cell population can be routinely infected by rhinovirus. Viral infection was confirmed by demonstrating that viral titers of supernatants and lysates from infected cell increased with time and by PCR. Infection by rhinovirus 14 was inhibited by homotypic antiserum and by antibodies to intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), the receptor for this virus. Susceptibility of epithelial cells to infection by rhinovirus 14 (but not rhinovirus 2, an ICAM-1 independent strain) can be increased by preexposure of cells to TNF alpha, whereas IFN gamma reduces susceptibility to infection by both rhinovirus strains. Rhinovirus infection per se does not markedly alter ICAM-1 expression on epithelial cells. Finally, we demonstrate that rhinovirus infection induced increased production of IL-8, IL-6, and GM-CSF from epithelial cells. Production of IL-8 correlated with viral replication during the first 24 h after infection. This model should provide useful insights into the pathogenesis of rhinovirus infections.