In an animal model of hypersensitivity pneumonitis (HP) guinea-pigs were exposed for 5 weeks to an aerosol of bacterial endotoxin, beta(1,3)-D-glucan (curdlan) or a combination. Exposure to endotoxin or curdlan showed only small changes in inflammatory cells in airways or the lung wall, histologically or in terms of enzyme secretion from alveolar macrophages. When the two agents were given together, a histology resembling HP was seen with alveolar infiltrates and early granulomas. Inflammatory cells in airways were increased and enzyme production of macrophages was changed, suggesting an effect of curdlan on the inflammatory regulating capacity of airway macrophages. The results suggest that interference with macrophage function and inflammation are important components in the development of HP.