Cold air was delivered to anesthetized, artificially ventilated, pathogen-free F344 rats via a tracheal cannula. Inhalation of cold air increased Evans blue dye extravasation in the trachea in a time-dependent (1 to 10 min) manner. Plasma extravasation increased after 3 min exposure to cold air and reached a maximum after 10 min exposure. The neutral endopeptidase inhibitor, phosphoramidon (2.5 mg/kg, intravenously), increased by 84% the plasma extravasation induced by inhalation of cold air for 1 min. The plasma extravasation evoked by 5 min exposure to cold air was abolished by the NK1 tachykinin receptor antagonist, CP-99,994 (4 mg/kg, intravenously); was reduced 30% by the B2 bradykinin receptor antagonist, HOE140 (0.1 mumol/kg, intravenously); and was not affected by H1 (pyrilamine, 10 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) or H2 (cimetidine, 10 mg/kg, intraperitoneally) histamine receptor antagonists or the cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin (5 mg/kg, intravenously). In rats infected with Sendai virus, plasma extravasation evoked by inhalation of cold air was greater than in pathogen-free rats. Pretreatment with CP-99,994 (4 mg/kg, intravenously) inhibited completely the plasma extravasation induced by cold air in virus-infected rats. These findings indicate that cold air increases plasma extravasation in the rat trachea by a neurogenic mechanism that involves the release of tachykinins from sensory nerves. Kinin release may also play a role in this neurogenic inflammatory response.