In a previous study, a single dose of zileuton (10 mg/kg, po) given 2 h before antigen challenge, had a minimal effect on the antigen-induced early airway response (EAR), although it was effective in blocking the late airway response (LAR). Because our previous data indicated that 5-lipoxygenase (5-LO) products contribute to the severity of the antigen-induced EAR in these animals, we hypothesized that the lack of effect of zileuton on the EAR may have had to do with inadequate tissue levels. Therefore, in this study, we determined if multiple dosing with zileuton, which theoretically could improve tissue levels, would provide protection against the antigen-induced EAR as well as the LAR. Each sheep was used in each of the three trials (> or = 15 days apart), the order of which was randomized. For trial 1, the sheep were treated with zileuton (10 mg/kg in 0.1% methylcellulose, p.o.) once a day for 4 days; for trials 2, the sheep were treated with zileuton (10 mg/kg, p.o.) for 2 days; and, for trial 3, the animals were treated with vehicle (0.1% methylcellulose) for 4 days as in trial 1. In all trials, antigen challenge followed 1 h after the last treatment. In the placebo trial, antigen challenge resulted in characteristic EAR (407 +/- 102%, increase over baseline) and LAR (335 +/- 75%, increase over baseline). The antigen-induced effects were completely blocked by the 4-day treatment (EAR = 24 +/- 3%; LAR = 17 +/- 3%, P < 0.05 vs. placebo). In the 2-day trial, the immediate increase in R1, after antigen challenge was only partially blocked (EAR = 163 +/- 16%, P < 0.10 vs. placebo and P < 0.05 vs. 4-day trial), but the late response was completely blocked (24 +/- 3%). The protection against the EAR obtained with the 4-day treatment was significantly better (P < 0.05) than that obtained with the 2-day treatment. The results of this study show that multiple dosing with the 5-LO inhibitor, zileuton, provides protection against the antigen-induced EAR as well as LAR. The effect on the EAR is dependent on the treatment time, with dosing 4 days before antigen challenge providing a more significant effect than either dosing 2 days before challenge (this study) or on the same day as antigen challenge as was seen by us previously. This effect may be related to increased tissue levels of the drug.