We have studied ciliary beat frequency (CBF) of rabbit cultured tracheal epithelium by a photoelectric method in-vitro. Addition of erythromycin and roxithromycin increased CBF in a dose-dependent fashion, whereas clarithromycin was without effect. The rank order potency of macrolide was roxithromycin > erythromycin >> clarithromycin. The roxithromycin-induced increase in CBF was not altered by propranolol, AA-861, or verapamil, but partially attenuated by indomethacin. Roxithromycin increased intracellular cAMP concentrations. These results suggest that certain macrolides can stimulate airway ciliary motility probably via prostaglandin- and cAMP-dependent regulatory pathways, which may affect mucociliary transport function in the respiratory tract.