Secretory immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) participates in the first noninflammatory line of defence of the respiratory tract. S-IgA consists of dimeric IgA (dIgA) produced by plasma cells and secretory component (SC) produced by epithelial cells. This study compared SC production by primary cultures of human bronchial epithelial cells (HBEC) and by respiratory epithelial cell lines. Among the cell lines, A549 did not produce detectable SC, 16HBE produced very low levels of SC, while CALU-3 produced significant levels of SC. HBEC produced SC in nonpolarized and polarized primary cultures, where it was secreted apically. Polarized HBEC transcytosed radiolabelled and cold dIgA, resulting in the presence of S-IgA in their apical media. SC production and IgA transcytosis by polarized HBEC were upregulated by interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) after 48 h. By reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, no SC messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) was detected in A549 and 16HBE, while SC mRNA in CALU-3 was comparable to that of HBEC incubated for 48 h with IFN-gamma. By immunocytochemistry, HBEC expressed SC immunostaining and its intensity increased after 48 h with IFN-gamma. It is concluded that human bronchial epithelial cells produce secretory component and transcytose dimeric immunoglobulin A in vitro. These processes were apically polarized and upregulated by interferon-gamma. Among the cell lines studied, only CALU-3 expressed secretory component-messenger ribonucleic acid and produced detectable secretory component.