Antisense oligonucleotides are currently being investigated for the treatment of a variety of diseases. Antisense drugs are being administered primarily by parenteral injection. To explore more convenient patient delivery methods, we have characterized the tissue kinetics and tolerability of an inhaled aerosol formulation of a phosphorothioate oligonucleotide in mice. Concentrations of oligonucleotide in bronchioalveolar lavage fluid, plasma, and tissue and immunohistochemical localization were used to assess deposition and pharmacokinetic parameters. Significant concentrations of oligonucleotide in lung, as well as systemic tissues, were measured following a pulmonary dose of 12 mg/kg. Doses as low as 1-3 mg/kg also produced significant concentrations of oligonucleotide (>50 microg oligonucleotide per gram of tissue), and these were maintained in the lung with a halflife of 20 hours or greater. Oligonucleotide was localized to bronchiolar epithelium and alveolar epithelium and endothelium. Toxicity was mild at the 12 mg/kg level and minimal to absent at doses of 3 mg/kg or below. Based on a favorable pharmacokinetic profile and a relative lack of toxicity, inhalation delivery appears to be a therapeutic option for antisense oligonucleotides.