In order to test the hypothesis that ozone (O3)-induced changes in lung function and respiratory tract injury/inflammation are greater in subjects with asthma than in normal subjects, we exposed 18 asthmatic subjects, on separate days, to O3 (0.2 ppm) and filtered air for 4 h during exercise. Symptom questionnaires were administered before and after exposure, and pulmonary function tests (FEV1, FVC, and specific airway resistance [SRaw]) were performed before, during, and immediately after each exposure. Fiberoptic bronchoscopy, with proximal airway lavage (PAL) of the isolated left main bronchus and bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL; bronchial fraction, the first 10 ml of fluid recovered) of the right middle lobe, was performed 18 h after each exposure. The PAL, bronchial fraction, and BAL fluids were analyzed for the following endpoints: total and differential cell counts; total protein, lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), fibronectin, interleukin-8 (IL-8), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), myeloperoxidase (MPO), and transforming growth factor-beta (TGF beta 2) concentrations. We found a significant O3 effect on FEV1, FVC, SRaw (p < 0.04) and lower respiratory symptoms (p < 0.001) for the asthmatic subjects. Ozone exposure also significantly increased the percent neutrophils in PAL (p < 0.01); percent neutrophils, total protein, and IL-8 in the bronchial fraction (p < 0.001, p < 0.05, and p < 0.01, respectively); and the percent neutrophils, total protein, LDH, fibronectin, IL-8, GM-CSF, and MPO in BAL (p < 0.001, p < 0.01, p < 0.01, p < 0.001, p < 0.05, p < 0.01, and p < 0.001, respectively) for the asthmatic subjects. There were no significant differences in the lung function responses of the asthmatic subjects in comparison with a group of normal subjects (n = 81) previously studied using an identical protocol, although there was a trend toward a greater O3-induced increase in SRaw in the asthmatic subjects (p < 0.13). In contrast, the asthmatic subjects showed significantly greater (p < 0.05) O3-induced increases in several inflammatory endpoints (percent neutrophils and total protein concentration) in BAL as compared with normal subjects who underwent bronchoscopy (n = 20). Our results indicate that asthmatic persons may be at risk of developing more severe O3-induced respiratory tract injury/inflammation than normal persons, and may help explain the increased asthma morbidity associated with O3 pollution episodes observed in epidemiologic studies.