Increasing evidence suggests that cytokines play a role in airway inflammation by attracting and activating inflammatory cells. This may lead to epithelial cell damage and airway hyperresponsiveness. Bronchial provocative concentration of histamine causing a 20% fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 second was measured in patients with mild asthma, and bronchial biopsy specimens were stained for granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), interleukin (IL)-8, and activated eosinophils (EG2) in the bronchial epithelium. The effect of inhaled beclomethasone dipropionate was also assessed in a placebo-controlled double-blind manner. There was a correlation between GM-CSF expression and EG2-staining cells (r = 0.484 p < 0.05) in the epithelium. Provocative concentration of histamine causing a 20% fall in forced expiratory volume in 1 second was correlated with GM-CSF expression (r = -0.462, p < 0.05). Treatment with inhaled beclomethasone dipropionate 500 micrograms twice a day led to a significant decrease in both the expression of GM-CSF (p < 0.01) and IL-8 (p < 0.02) and the number of EG2-staining cells (p < 0.01) in the epithelium. The changes in GM-CSF (r = 0.798, p < 0.01) and IL-8 (r = 0.653, p < 0.02) expression were correlated with the changes in EG2-staining cells after treatment. These results suggest that GM-CSF may influence eosinophil activation in the epithelium in vivo and participate in the etiology of bronchial hyperresponsiveness in mild asthma. Also, beclomethasone dipropionate may inhibit eosinophil activation partly by downregulating the expression of GM-CSF and IL-8 in the bronchial epithelium.