Secretory leukocyte proteinase inhibitor (SLPI) and alpha1-proteinase inhibitor (alpha1(PI)) cannot fully explain the total neutrophil elastase (NE) inhibitory capacity detected in bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, suggesting the existence of other NE inhibitor(s). In the present study, we measured the concentrations of elafin, a newly described, low-molecular-weight serine proteinase inhibitor, SLPI, and alpha1(PI) in BAL fluids from eight healthy subjects, 13 asymptomatic farmers, seven farmers with active farmer's lung (FL), and seven farmers with previous (Ex) FL. In addition to SLPI and alpha1(PI), elafin was present in BAL fluids from control subjects and asymptomatic farmers, 13 (7-31) and 12 (7-67) mmol/mol of albumin (median and range) respectively. Elafin concentration increased significantly to 105 (38-207) mmol/mol of albumin in farmers with active FL and was also elevated in farmers with Ex FL. Elafin levels were highly correlated with lung inflammatory cell numbers, especially lymphocytes, and the decrease in single-breath diffusion capacity (DLCO). Elafin and SLPI were linked to yet uncharacterized proteins in BAL fluids. In conclusion, elafin is a constituent of BAL fluid from normal subjects and is found in enhanced concentrations in FL and in farmers with lymphocytic alveolitis. This suggests that elafin may play a role in lung homeostasis and inflammation.