Allergen exposure of sensitised lungs produces bronchial hyperresponsiveness in vivo associated with airway inflammation and remodelling. It is unclear if hyperresponsiveness is also present in airways in vitro under similar conditions of drug provocation as carried out in vivo, and at different times after allergen-challenge. This study records responsiveness of individual airway segments to acetylcholine (ACh) in sensitised bronchi after instillation of allergen (ovalbumin, OA). Airway histology and sensitivity and maximum effects to ACh were recorded 1, 24 and 72 h and 1 week after OA. OA-instilled airways exhibited eosinophilia and epithelial proliferation. Physiological recordings showed no change in maximum contractions of airway segments to acetylcholine placed in the airway lumen except at 24 h where they were reduced. In contrast maximum contractions to ACh to the airway adventitia were reduced at all times except 1 week, with the greatest change occurring at 24 h. There were no changes in airway sensitivity to either route of ACh in OA-instilled airways but the difference in sensitivity to adventitial and lumenal ACh was reduced. Results show that allergen does not produce hyperresponsiveness at the airway wall but it may alter an interaction between airway smooth muscle and other structural components of the airway. (C) 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.