To investigate the role of IL-5 in airway hyperreactivity and pulmonary eosinophilia, we used a model of allergic asthma in guinea pigs and a neutralizing monoclonal antibody (TRFK-5) directed against murine IL-5. Sensitized guinea pigs were challenged with 1% ovalbumin (OVA) aerosol and assessed for airway eosinophilia (by bronchoalveolar lavage [BAL] and histologic evaluation of airway tissue) and bronchoconstrictor responsiveness to substance P (SP) (as Rl100 and Cdyn40) 24 h later. OVA challenge of sensitized animals caused a significant increase in airway responsiveness to SP, with a 4.9-fold decrease in Rl100 and a 4.7-fold decrease in Cdyn40. Accompanying this increased sensitivity to SP was a 9-fold increase in eosinophils recovered in BAL and a 4- to 5-fold increase in eosinophils in intrapulmonary bronchial tissue. Intraperitoneal treatment with 10 mg/kg of the IL-5 antibody 2 h before OVA challenge blocked BAL and lung tissue increases in eosinophils but had no effect on the development of airway sensitivity to SP. In contrast, similar treatment with 30 mg/kg of this antibody blocked OVA-induced increased sensitivity to SP as well as BAL and lung tissue eosinophilia. These data suggest a critical and possibly independent role for IL-5 in allergic airway hyperresponsiveness and the accumulation of eosinophils within the lung of the guinea pig.