Bronchial inflammation is associated with a reduction in airway caliber. Factors that may dampen this inflammation are ill defined. We have developed a model of airway inflammation using an extract of cotton bracts (CBE). In the current study we characterize inhibitor(s) of polymorphonuclear neutrophil (PMN) function in bronchial lavage (BL) fluid and examine the relationship between inhibitor concentrations and induction of bronchial inflammation or bronchoconstriction by CBE. We report that BL obtained contains factors that inhibit PMN hydrogen peroxide production and chemotaxis to formylmethionylleucylphenylalanine (FMLP). In two different subject populations the relative degree of a one molecular mass inhibitor was greatest in BL from subjects that manifested little bronchoconstriction to CBE compared with other subjects. In one subject population the relative amount of this inhibitor correlated inversely with the bronchoconstricting response to CBE and a number of parameters of airway inflammation including PMN noted on bronchial biopsy after CBE instillation. Partial chemical characterization of one molecular mass BL-derived inhibitor reveals it is of low molecular mass (<1,000 Da), nonpolar, and sensitive to aminopeptidase digestion. The finding that the bronchial environment contains variable concentrations of an oligopeptide that inhibits PMN function has important implications for treatment of inflammatory airway diseases.