We have shown in nocturnal asthma that alveolar tissue eosinophils are increased at night as compared with the proximal airway, and that they correlate with the overnight decrement in lung function. As the CD4+ cell is thought to be the principal orchestrating cell in eosinophil recruitment, we evaluated its presence in the proximal and distal airways in nocturnal asthma. Eleven patients with nocturnal asthma (NA) and 10 patients with non-nocturnal asthma (NNA) underwent two bronchoscopies with proximal airway endobronchial and distal alveolar tissue transbronchial biopsy in a random order at 4:00 P.M. and at 4:00 A.M. separated by 1 wk. Immunohistochemical staining and morphometric analysis were used to determine the number of CD3+, CD4+, and CD8+ cells and EG2+ eosinophils per mm2 in the epithelium, lamina propria, and alveolar tissue. At 4:00 A.M., the NA group had a significantly greater number of CD4+ cells in the alveolar tissue than the NNA group (9.8 cells/ mm2 [5.6-30.8, interquartile (IQ)] versus 1.5 cells/mm2 [0-6. 3, IQ], p = 0.04). Within the NA group, there were significantly greater numbers of CD3+, CD4+, CD8+, and EG2+ cells in the proximal airway lamina propria than in the distal airway at both 4:00 P.M. and 4:00 A.M. There were no differences within the epithelium between the groups at either time point. Only alveolar tissue, not airway tissue, CD4+ cells correlated inversely with the percentage predicted FEV1 at 4:00 A.M. (r = -0.68, p = 0.0018) and positively with the number of alveolar tissue EG2+ cells (r = 0.66, p = 0.01). These findings suggest that the CD4+ lymphocyte is increased in the alveolar tissue at night in nocturnal asthma as compared with non-nocturnal asthma.