The role of antioxidant defense mechanisms in the pathogenesis of granulomatous human lung diseases remains open to investigation. In this study we investigated the immunoreactivity of two important superoxide radical scavenging intracellular antioxidant enzymes, manganese superoxide dismutase (MnSOD) and copperzinc superoxide dismutase (CuZnSOD), in pulmonary sarcoidosis and extrinsic allergic alveolitis. In histologically normal lung MnSOD was variable but mostly positive in the cells of bronchial epithelium, alveolar epithelium especially in type II pneumocytes, and alveolar macrophages. Copperzinc SOD showed positive immunoreactivity most markedly in the bronchial epithelium. The biopsies of 22 patients with pulmonary sarcoidosis and 10 with extrinsic allergic alveolitis indicated that MnSOD was highly stained in the granulomas of both diseases, with 60 to 100% of the granulomas showing intensive immunoreactivity. Western blots conducted on the cell samples of bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid revealed significantly higher amounts of MnSOD in sarcoidosis and extrinsic allergic alveolitis than in the controls. Immunohistochemistry on the cells obtained from BAL fluid showed positive immunoreactivity of MnSOD in the macrophages but not in the lymphocytes. In contrast, copperzinc SOD was not induced in either of these diseases. We conclude that MnSOD is highly expressed in the granulomas of pulmonary sarcoidosis and extrinsic allergic alveolitis, and variable but mostly positive in alveolar macrophages, possibly owing to cytokine mediated induction during the granuloma formation.