Epithelial cells are likely to modulate inflammation and tissue repair in the airways, but the factors responsible for these processes remain unclear. The authors therefore investigated the response of an SV-40/adenovirus-transformed human bronchial epithelial cell line (BEAS-2B) to histamine, a mediator with relevance for airway diseases. The intracellular calcium response to histamine (0.0001 M) was measured, using Fura-2 and microspectrofluorimetry. Histamine induced a transient increase in intracellular calcium that originated from intracellular sources; the effect was inhibited by the H1 receptor antagonist diphenhyramine, suggesting that BEAS cells retain functioning histamine receptors. BEAS cells were grown to confluence on microporous, collagen-coated filters, allowing measurement of vectorial release of soluble mediators. Monolayers exposed to histamine for 30 min released interleukin-6 and fibronectin in the apical direction, in a dose-dependent manner. Little eicosanoid production was induced by histamine, either in the apical or the basolateral direction, although BEAS cells constitutively produced small amounts of prostaglandin E2 and 15-HETE. However, these cells formed large amounts of eicosanoids in response to ozone exposure as a positive control. Comparison of the data with published reports for human airway epithelia in primary culture suggests that the BEAS cell line is, in a number of respects, a relevant model for the study of airway epithelial responses to a variety of stimuli.