A common side effect of radiotherapy is the development of fibrosis in the irradiated tissue. To study the mechanisms of this fibrogenic response, we developed a model system of whole-lung radiation in the rat and studied the evolution of injury by assessment of the cells and protein recovered by lavage. Once the pattern of injury was known, we attempted to modulate this reaction by administering the cytokine interferon-γ (IFN-γ). Rats received 15 Gy radiation to the whole thorax and were studied by lung lavage at intervals of 1 to 35 days after radiation. The effect of radiation was an initial (24 h) leak of protein, unaccompanied by cellular alterations, that resolved by 48 h. This was followed 2 wk later by a phase of inflammatory cell recruitment and more significant protein leak. A third phase of increase in inflammatory cells and further increase in protein flux was noted at Day 35. A significant cellular infiltrate was seen in lung sections obtained from animals treated in parallel experiments. IFN-γ was given by osmotic pump from Day 0 to Day 35. This treatment significantly attenuated the PMN recruitment and protein leak (p < 0.002 and 0.01, respectively) at Days 25 and 35. Histologic sections demonstrated reduced alveolar cellularity and exudate at Day 25 (p < 0.05); however, significant numbers of inflammatory cells and exudate were present in irradiated and IFN-γ-treated animals at Day 35. These data indicate that inflammatory cell recruitment may play a role in the lung injury following radiation. Furthermore, these preliminary data indicate that a cytokine blocks this reaction.