Enhanced airway smooth muscle (ASM) contractility contributes to increased resistance to airflow in diseases such as bronchitis and asthma that occur in passive smokers exposed to secondhand smoke. Little information exists on the cellular mechanisms underlying such airway hyperreactivity. Sputum samples of patients with chronic sinusitis, bronchitis, and asthma show increased concentrations of growth factors called neurotrophins, including brain-derived growth factor (BDNF), but their physiological significance remains unknown. In human ASM, we tested the hypothesis that BDNF contributes to increased contractility with cigarette smoke exposure. The exposure of ASM to 1% or 2% cigarette smoke extract (CSE) for 24 hours increased intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) responses to histamine, and further potentiated the enhancing effects of a range of BDNF concentrations on such histamine responses. CSE exposure increased the expression of the both high-affinity and low-affinity neurotrophin receptors tropomyosin-related kinase (Trk)-B and p75 pan-neurotrophin receptor, respectively. Quantitative ELISA showed that CSE increased BDNF secretion by human ASM cells. BDNF small interfering (si)RNA and/or the chelation of extracellular BDNF, using TrkB-fragment crystallizable, blunted the effects of CSE on [Ca2+]i responses as well as the CSE enhancement of cell proliferation, whereas TrkB siRNA blunted the effects of CSE on ASM contractility. These data suggest that cigarette smoke is a potent inducer of BDNF and TrkB expression and signaling in ASM, which then contribute to cigarette smoke-induced airway hyperresponsiveness.