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The airways are continuously exposed to respiratory pathogens, which may result in bacterial pneumonia, one of the most common infectious diseases and the leading cause of sepsis. Considering that recurrent exposure to microbial products can lead to tolerance of immune cells, and that this might contribute to the susceptibility to nosocomial infection, we investigated the effect of in vivo lipopolysaccharide (LPS) instillation on the responsiveness of alveolar macrophages. In eight healthy humans, sterile saline was instilled into a lung segment by bronchoscope, followed by instillation of LPS into the contralateral lung; 6 hours later, a bilateral bronchoalveolar lavage was performed, and purified alveolar macrophages were ex vivo stimulated with LPS or lipoteichoic acid (LTA), triggering Toll-like receptor (TLR)-4 and -2, respectively. In vivo LPS-exposed alveolar macrophages were primed, as reflected by increased ex vivo LPS- and LTA-induced IL-1β and IL-6 gene expression and production compared with in vivo saline-exposed alveolar macrophages. LPS instillation did not influence the surface expression of TLR4 or TLR2. Furthermore, LPS instillation did not impact on the expression of a number of extracellular and intracellular regulators of TLR signaling. However, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase remained phosphorylated in alveolar macrophages upon LPS instillation. The current data demonstrate that LPS instillation in the human lung primes alveolar macrophages for further stimulation with either LPS or LTA, possibly by sustained p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase activation.