Airway inflammation is increasingly recognized as a pivotal component of asthma. Because allergens provoke bronchial constriction and inflammation in allergic subjects, bronchial antigen challenge has emerged as a powerful technique for evaluating mechanisms involved in this process. In this study, we compare whole lung antigen challenge (WLAC) with segmental bronchoprovocation (SBP) in eight allergic, non-asthmatic, non-smoking subjects, and evaluated the response by bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) prior to, and 48 h after antigen challenge. Both challenge techniques evoked airway inflammation, manifest as an increase in total cells and eosinophils recovered by BAL, an increase in total protein concentration, and enhanced production of superoxide anion by airspace cells. The degree to which these changes occurred was significantly greater with SBP than WLAC, and only SBP evoked persistent measurable change in alveolar macrophage density and eosinophil granule protein concentrations. Moreover, although both techniques were associated with a comparable immediate fall in FEV1, only WLAC resulted in statistically significant persistent physiologic changes 48 h afterwards. We conclude that, as anticipated, SBP produces more intense airway inflammation in allergic subjects, does not result in late airway obstruction, and offers specific advantages in studying allergen-driven airway inflammation.