Proteolytic enzymes have been proposed to play a role in the pathogenesis of various inflammatory pulmonary diseases accompanied by parenchymal remodeling. To assess the role of inflammatory cells and proteolytic enzymes in the development of chronic allograft rejection after lung transplantation, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) samples from clinically stable lung transplant (LT) recipients (i.e., without evidence of active infection or rejection), heart transplant (HT) recipients, and healthy volunteers (NL) were analyzed for total white blood cell (WBC) count and differential cell count, along with gelatinolytic/type IV collagenolytic activity. The LT group displayed a significantly increased total WBC count, neutrophil count, and percent neutrophils compared with the NL group, confirming the presence of inflammation. Furthermore, gelatin zymography revealed a significant increase in activity of the 72 and 92 kD gelatinases in the LT group compared with the NL group. A positive correlation existed between neutrophil counts and the increase in proteolytic activity. Immunosuppressive therapy did not account for the findings, since no significant difference in cell counts or proteolytic activity existed between the NL and HT control groups. These findings, together with those of others that relate chronic lung allograft dysfunction to an increase in BALF neutrophils and collagen matrix remodeling, collectively indicate that up-regulated proteolytic activity may have a role in chronic rejection after lung transplantation.