Previous studies have suggested that inhibition of the cyclooxygenase pathway of arachidonic acid metabolism may suppress the late asthmatic responses to inhaled allergen. Both human and animal studies have suggested that prostanoids may also be involved in increases in airway responsiveness after ozone and allergen. We studied seven atopic subjects, who had a dual asthmatic response to inhaled allergen, during a control period and then after pretreatment with indomethacin (50 mg) or placebo twice daily for 2 days, administered in a randomized, double-blind manner. Indomethacin had no significant effect on the base-line airway responsiveness to histamine (P = 0.22) or the allergen-induced early or late asthmatic response (P = 0.49). However, indomethacin inhibited the increase in airway responsiveness (express as histamine PC20) after allergen inhalation. The log difference in preallergen to postallergen histamine PC20 was 0.49 +/- 0.08 (SE) during the control period, 0.46 +/- 0.08 (SE) after placebo (P = 0.81), and 0.22 +/- 0.10 (SE) after indomethacin (P = 0.02). Although indomethacin is useful for examining the role of cyclooxygenase products in asthmatic responses, it should not be considered in the treatment of asthma. We conclude that cyclooxygenase products are not significant mediators of allergen-induced early or late asthmatic responses but are involved in the pathogenesis of airway hyperresponsiveness after allergen inhalation.