Since orally administered K+ channel openers may have cardiovascular side effects, it is possible that inhaled administration would be preferred for the treatment of asthma. We have investigated whether inhaled levcromakalim and HOE 234 inhibit histamine-induced bronchoconstriction and airway plasma exudation in anaesthetised guinea pigs. We have also investigated whether inhaled HOE 234 inhibits the bronchoconstriction and plasma exudation induced by vagus nerve stimulation, which is due to the release of tachykinins from sensory nerves. Lung resistance was measured by airway resistance (RL) computed from airway and transpulmonary pressures and plasma exudation by measurement of Evans blue dye extravasation. Inhaled levcromakalim (25 mu g/ml) had a short duration of action, being effective against histamine-induced bronchoconstriction 2 min after pretreatment, but not at 10 min. Inhaled HOE 234 (25 mu g/ml) was similarly effective against histamine-induced bronchoconstriction but had a longer duration of action. Inhaled levcromakalim partially attenuated histamine-induced plasma extravasation in small airways, but not in the trachea or main bronchi, whereas inhaled HOE 234 had no effect. HOE 234 protected against non-adrenergic non-cholinergic nerve-induced bronchoconstriction, but had no effect on neurogenic- or substance P-induced plasma extravasation in the airway. Inhaled K+ channel openers protect against induced bronchoconstriction, but provide little or no protection against plasma exudation, possibly because of an increase in airway blood flow. In addition, inhaled HOE 234 had no effect on neurogenic leakage, suggesting that its vagal inhibitory effect on bronchoconstriction was on airway smooth muscle, rather than on release of neuropeptides from sensory nerves.