To investigate the role of NK1 receptors in the pathogenesis of bronchoconstriction and cough in asthma, we performed a randomized, double-blind, crossover study on the effects of a selective non-peptide tachykinin NK1 receptor antagonist (CP-99,994) on baseline measures of lung function and on hypertonic saline-induced bronchoconstriction and cough in 14 male subjects with mild asthma. CP-99,994 (250 micrograms/2 hours) and placebo were administered intravenously in 2-h infusions during consecutive visits 5 to 7 d apart. Specific airway resistance (SRaw) was measured and spirometry was performed at baseline and at 35 and 60 min. Next, hypertonic saline challenge was performed by delivering 10 breaths of saline of increasing concentration (0.9 to 7% in 1% increments at 5-min intervals) via an ultrasonic nebulizer until SRaw increased from baseline by 200% or 20 units, whichever was greater. Throughout the challenge cough was counted from a taped record made from two microphones placed close to the subject's larynx. We found that CP-99,994 did not significantly affect SRaw or spirometric measures of lung function during the first hour of infusion. Although CP-99,994 infusion markedly attenuated the bronchoconstrictor response to the saline challenge in two subjects, it did not significantly decrease the area under curves obtained for SRaw and cough during saline challenge for the group as a whole (p = 0.9 for SRaw;p = 0.8 for cough). We conclude that administration of 250 micrograms/kg of CP-99,994 over 2 h does not significantly inhibit hypertonic saline-induced bronchoconstriction or cough in subjects with mild asthma and does not have acute bronchodilator activity in these subjects.