The role of oxygen radicals in causing ozone-induced airway hyperresponsiveness in dogs was examined by pretreating dogs with allopurinol and/or deferoxamine mesylate (desferal), which are inhibitors of oxygen radical generation, before ozone inhalation. Acetylcholine airway responsiveness was measured before and after either air or ozone inhalation (3 ppm for 20 min) on 5 experimental days separated by at least 2 wk. On each day, the dogs were pretreated intravenously with allopurinol (50 mg/kg) followed by inhaled desferal (1,000 mg inhalation) or with allopurinol followed by the diluent for desferal or with the diluent for allopurinol and desferal or with both diluents. The effect of ozone on acetylcholine airway responsiveness was expressed as the differences in the log-transformed preozone-postozone acetylcholine provocative concentrations. When dogs received both diluents or either treatment alone, ozone inhalation caused airway hyperresponsiveness. The mean log differences for the preozone- postozone acetylcholine provocative concentration were 0.804 (SEM, 0.17) for both diluents, 0.524 (SEM, 0.16) for allopurinol alone, and 0.407 (SEM, 0.22) for desferal alone. However, the combination of allopurinol and desferal significantly inhibited the development of ozone-induced airway hyperresponsiveness, the log difference being 0.195 (SEM, 0.11) (p < 0.05), without inhibiting ozone-induced neutrophil influx into the airways. The results suggest that the production of oxygen radicals is important in the pathogenesis of ozone-induced airway hyperresponsiveness.