Interactions of granulocytes with the lungs are altered by endotoxemia and may be critical in the pathogenesis of endotoxin-induced lung injury. In chronically instrumented unanesthetized sheep, we measured the ability of lung lymph to aggregate normal sheep neutrophils in vitro. We found a marked increase in lung lymph aggregating activity beginning within 1 hour after endotoxin infusion and persisting for several hours. When n-acetylcysteine was administered to the animals before endotoxin infusion, neutrophil aggregating activity in lung lymph after endotoxin infusion was markedly reduced. N-acetylcysteine did not affect neutrophil aggregation, adherence, or leukotriene B4 production in vitro and did not prevent complement activation at concentrations achieved in vivo. It is concluded that endotoxemia causes release from the lungs of substance(s) that activate granulocytes, and that this response is prevented by n-acetylcysteine, possibly as a result of the antioxidant properties of the drug.