Hyperosmolar aerosols are used to assess airway responsiveness in subjects with asthma. Using a 10% NaCl aerosol, we investigated airway responsiveness in 23 cystic fibrosis (CF) subjects (12 females, 11 males; 19.1 +/- 3.3 years) who had asthma-like symptoms. The pre-challenge predicted forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1) was 74.7 +/- 21.5. The aerosol was generated by a MistO2gen 143A ultrasonic nebulizer and inhaled for 0.5, 1, 2, 4, 8, 8, and 8 minutes or part thereof. Spirometry was performed before and 1 minute after each inhalation period. The challenge was stopped when a > or = 20% fall from the baseline FEV1 was recorded, after the last inhalation period, or when requested by the subject. We recorded different responses to 10% NaCl among subjects. In 7, the FEV1 fell progressively throughout the challenge in a manner similar to asthmatics. By contrast, in 15 subjects the FEV1 was higher at the completion of challenge compared to during challenge, i.e., the fall in FEV1 was transient. In 7 of these subjects, the final FEV1 at the end of the challenge was higher than the pre-challenge FEV1. We conclude that inhaled 10% hyperosmolar saline causes either progressive and sustained or transient airway narrowing during challenge in the majority of CF subjects. The cause of the transient airway narrowing requires further investigation.