We measured respiratory input impedance (1-25 Hz) in mice and obtained parameters for airway and tissue mechanics by model fitting. Lung volume was varied by inflating to airway opening pressure (Pao) between 0 and 20 cmH(2)O. The expected pattern of changes in respiratory mechanics with increasing lung volume was seen: a progressive fall in airway resistance and increases in the coefficients of tissue damping and elastance. A surprising pattern was seen in hysteresivity (eta), with a plateau at low lung volumes (Pao < 10 cmH(2)O), a sharp fall occurring between 10 and 15 cmH(2)O, and η approaching a second (lower) plateau at higher lung volumes. Studies designed to elucidate the mechanism(s) behind this behavior revealed that this was not due to chest wall properties, differences in volume history at low lung volume, time dependence of volume recruitment, or surface-acting forces. Our data are consistent with the notion that at low lung volumes the mechanics of the tissue matrix determine η, whereas at high lung volumes the properties of individual fibers (collagen) become more important.