To determine whether analysis of the constituents of induced sputum permits detection of changes provoked by aerosolized antigen challenge, we performed sputum induction (20-minute inhalation of aerosolized 3% saline solution) before and after aerosolized allergen challenge in eight subjects with asthma. Total cell counts and cell differentials of nonsquamous cells in induced sputum samples were determined after the samples were homogenized in dithiothreitol. Centrifugation of the entire homogenized sputum sample yielded supernatant that could be analyzed for biochemical constituents. We found that the median percentage of eosinophils and neutrophils in induced sputum samples was significantly higher 4 hours after allergen challenge neutrophils in induced sputum samples was significantly higher 4 hours after allergen challenge than at baseline (12% vs 0.5%, p < 0.05; 30.5% vs 7.5%, p < 0.05) and remained high 24 hours after challenge. Median levels of eosinophil cationic protein and histamine in induced sputum supernatants were significantly higher 4 hours after challenge than at baseline (151.3 vs 39.8 ng/ml, p < 0.05; 19.4 vs 8.8 micrograms, p < 0.05) and remained significantly higher 24 hours after challenge. Tryptase was detectable in sputum from seven of the subjects, and in these subjects, we found a trend toward an increase in median tryptase levels 4 hours after allergen challenge (4.4 vs 2.2 U/L, p = 0.09). We conclude that analysis of induced sputum after aerosolized allergen challenge reveals changes in inflammatory cells and markers similar to those reported in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and that sputum induction is a useful noninvasive method for studying allergic airway inflammation in asthma.