The aim of this study was to investigate the possible role of capsaicin-sensitive nerves in a pulmonary delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reaction. Mice (Balb/c) were skin-sensitized with dinitrofluorobenzene (DNFB; 0.5%, 100 microliters) on two consecutive days and challenged intranasally 5 days later with dinitrobenzene sulphonic acid (0.6%, 50 microliters). Sensitized mice exhibited tracheal hyperreactivity to carbachol 24 and 48 h after challenge; however, no hyperreactivity was observed 2 h after challenge. At 24 h, but not at 48 h, hyperreactivity was associated with antigen-specific lymphocyte accumulation in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). Capsaicin pretreatment, resulting in the depletion of sensory neuropeptides, virtually abolished hyperreactivity to carbachol 24 and 48 h after challenge in sensitized mice. Although at 24 h after challenge the lymphocyte population was elevated in the BALF collected from capsaicin-pretreated mice, this accumulation was not antigen-specific. Additionally, there was an increase in polymorphonuclear leukocyte accumulation (neutrophils and eosinophils) in the BALF collected from capsaicin-pretreated mice at this time point, but this increase was more profound in the sensitized group. In summary, tracheal hyperreactivity and cellular accumulation are prominent features of the lymphocyte-associated DTH reaction induced by DNFB in the mouse lung. Evidence presented in this report highlights the possible importance of sensory neuropeptides in pulmonary inflammation and airways hyperreactivity.