We determined the effect of reduced bronchial blood flow on lung fluid flux through changes in lung lymph flow, lung wet weight-to-dry weight (wet/dry) ratios, and pulmonary microvascular reflection coefficient (sigma). In the first of two surgical procedures, Merino ewes (n = 21) were surgically prepared for chronic study. Five to seven days later, in a second operation, the bronchial artery of the injection group (n = 7) was ligated, and 4 ml of 70% ethanol were injected into the bronchial artery to cause sclerosis of the airway circulation. In the ligation group (n = 7), only the bronchial artery was ligated. In the sham group (n = 7), the bronchial artery was surgically exposed but left intact without ligation or ethanol injection. One day after these operations the animals received a tracheotomy and 48 breaths of cotton smoke. The value of sigma was determined at two points: 24 h before the second surgical procedure and 24 h after smoke inhalation. Lung lymph flow, blood-gas parameters, and hemodynamic data were measured every 4 h after injury. At the end of investigation, samples of lung were taken for determination of blood-free wet/dry ratio. In the sham group, inhalation injury induced a gradual increase in pulmonary vascular resistance and lung lymph flow, which was associated with deterioration of oxygenation. Reduction of the bronchial blood flow attenuated these pathophysiological changes, and the degree of this attenuation was greater in the injection group than in the ligation group. The value of sigma was significantly higher after smoke inhalation in the injection group compared with the sham group (0.77 +/- 0.04 vs. 0.61 +/- 0.03, means +/- SE) at 24 h. The mean wet/dry ratio value of the injection group animals was 30% less than that of the sham group. Our data show that the bronchial circulation contributes to edema formation in the lung occurring after acute lung injury with smoke inhalation.