The sensory neuropeptides, substance P and neurokinin A, are present in human airway nerves, beneath and within the epithelium, around blood vessels and submucosal glands, and within the bronchial smooth muscle layer. Studies on autopsy tissue, bronchoalveolar lavage and sputum suggest that in asthma the substance P content of the airways may be increased. Neurokinin A is a more potent bronchoconstrictor than substance P. Asthmatics are hyperresponsive to neurokinin A and substance P. The neuropeptide degrading enzyme, neutral endopeptidase is present in the airways and is involved in the degradation of endogenously released and exogenously administered substance P and neurokinin A, both in normal and asthmatic subjects. As for other indirect bronchoconstrictor stimuli, the effect of neurokinin A on airway calibre in asthmatics can be inhibited by pretreatment with nedocromil sodium. Evidence is accumulating, not only from studies in animals but also from experiments on human airways, that tachykinins may also cause mucus secretion and plasma extravasation. They also have important proinflammatory effects, such as the chemoattraction of eosinophils and neutrophils, the adhesion of neutrophils, and the stimulation of lymphocytes, macrophages and mast cells. The tachykinins interact with the targets on the airways by specific tachykinin receptors. The NK1 and the NK2 receptor have been characterized in human airways, both pharmacologically and by cloning. The NK2 receptor is responsible for the in vitro contraction of normal airways, whilst the NK1 receptor is responsible for most of the other airway effects. Because of their presence in the airways and because of their ability to mimic the various pathophysiological features of asthma, substance P and neurokinin A are presently considered as possible mediators of asthma. The present development of potent and selective tachykinin antagonists will allow us to further define the role of tachykinins in the pathogenesis of asthma.