The role of substance P in the pathogenesis of asthma is unclear. Animal studies suggest that it may be important, whereas human studies do not confirm this. Alveolar macrophages can be recovered easily by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) and stimulated in vitro. To assess the role of substance P in humans, we tested its ability to stimulate alveolar macrophages from six normal subjects and seven asthmatic patients. BAL cells were separated by adherence and alveolar macrophages constituted 95% of the adherent cell population. Four concentrations of substance P were used (10−7, 10−6, 10−5, 10−4 M). To assess the non-specific activation of alveolar macrophages we used three concentrations of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) (5, 10, 20 μg/ml). The stimulation of alveolar macrophages was assessed by the release of thromboxane B2 by radioimmunoassay. This study indicates that alveolar macrophages are stimulated by LPS but are poorly activated or not at all by substance P.