We investigated whether exposure to a low level (490 micrograms/m3) of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) affects bronchial responsiveness to allergen and enhances allergen-induced increase in airway responsiveness to histamine. Eighteen subjects with asthma and allergy to pollen were exposed at rest to either purified air or NO2 for 30 min followed 4 h later by an allergen inhalation challenge. Responsiveness to histamine was measured the day after. Lung function during NO2 exposure and allergen challenge was measured by plethysmography and after exposure by a portable spirometer hourly. The order of exposure to NO2 and air was randomized and separated by at least 2 wk. The asthmatic reaction during the late phase was enhanced by NO2, and peak expiratory flow after allergen challenge was on average 6.6% lower (p = 0.02) after NO2 than after air exposure. The number of subjects having a late asthmatic reaction (fall in FEV1 > 15%) was seven after air and 10 after NO2 (NS). Peripheral blood samples were analyzed for differential cell counts before and after NO2/allergen and serum levels of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP). NO2 effect on lung function was neither associated with an increase in eosinophil numbers nor with ECP levels. NO2 did not affect lung function before allergen challenge, early asthmatic reaction, and allergen-induced increase in responsiveness to histamine. These results indicate that short exposure to an ambient level of NO2 followed several hours later by allergen inhalation enhances allergen-induced late asthmatic reaction.