In order to assess the usefulness of sputum analysis in studying plasma-protein exudation and local secretion of proteins in the airways, we measured specific proteins in the sputum sol phase (SSP) and sputum gel phase (SGP) from patients with stable asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Protein levels in SSP showed relatively small variations between two subsequent visits of each patient (n = 22), as also reflected by intraclass correlation coefficients above 0.79. Protein levels differed between SSP and SGP, but inclusion of the SGP data did not affect the variation of protein levels in sputum. The degree of plasma-protein leakage was estimated from the relative coefficients of excretion (RCE) of alpha 2-macroglobulin and albumin (QA2M/QALB), and of alpha 2-macroglobulin and ceruloplasmin (QA2M/QCP), which do not depend on variable dilution of sputum. Despite the heterogeneity of the study group of 26 patients with asthma (atopic  smokers , including five patients using inhaled steroids), QA2M/QALB and QA2M/QCP correlated both with bronchial hyperreactivity (Spearman rank: r = -0.45 and r = -0.36, p < 0.05) and with blood eosinophil counts (r = 0.37 and 0.56, p < 0.05). We conclude that protein levels in SSP are relatively constant in patients with stable asthma or COPD; in patients with asthma, the plasma-protein leakage, as measured with the RCE in SSP, appears to correlate with indirect indices of airway inflammation.