Aerosolized cysteinyl leukotrienes (CysLTs) elicit migration of eosinophils into guinea pig lungs and the airways of patients with asthma. The present studies were designed to analyze the concentration-response relationship, time course, and pharmacologic and histologic characteristics of leukotriene D4 (LTD4)-induced eosinophil influx into the airways of conscious guinea pigs. Animals were exposed to aerosols of 0.3 to 30 microg/ml LTD4 for 1 min, during which specific airway conductance (sGaw) was monitored. Bronchoalveolar lavages (BALs) of guinea pig airways were conducted at selected times from 4 h to 4 wk after LTD4 challenge. LTD4 produced maximal decreases in sGaw (70 to 90% reduction) at all concentrations tested and concentration-related increases in eosinophil levels in BALs, assessed 24 h after challenge. Increased numbers of eosinophils in the bronchial epithelium and subepithelium were confirmed histologically. Significant eosinophilia was maintained for up to 4 wk postchallenge. Pretreatment with the LTD4 receptor antagonist, pranlukast (ONO-1078, SB 205312) (20 mg/kg, intragastrically), significantly inhibited both the bronchoconstriction and the eosinophilia at 24 h, whereas the cyclooxygenase inhibitor, meclofenamic acid (5 mg/kg, intragastrically), had no effect on either parameter. Histologic observations were consistent with BAL results. Pretreatment with the rat anti-mouse antibody to interleukin-5 (IL-5), TRFK-5 (10-300 microg, intraperitoneally), produced dose-related inhibition of LTD4-induced eosinophilia, measured in 24 h or 3 wk BAL, but did not affect the acute bronchoconstriction. These results indicate that LTD4 elicits airway eosinophil influx in guinea pigs which persists as long as 4 wk after a single exposure, and provide the first evidence that IL-5 may have a role in LTD4-induced airways inflammation. This and other previously reported proinflammatory effects of LTD4 may contribute significantly to its overall influential role in the pathophysiology of asthma, and may underlie the therapeutic benefit of CysLT receptor antagonists, such as pranlukast, in this disorder.