Human nasal mucosal samples exposed in vitro to substance P or allergenic Ag were tested for the mRNA of IL-1, IL-2, IL-3, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma using specific reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction assays. After the administration of substance P, at dosages ranging from 10(-6) to 10(-9) M, an enhanced expression of the mRNA for IL-1 beta, -3, -5, -6, TNF-alpha, and IFN-gamma was observed in all mucosal samples of allergic subjects and in half of the nonallergic subjects. The expression of IL-2 and IL-4 was low. Mucosal samples of allergic subjects showed an increased expression of mRNA for cytokines after administration of specific Ag, whereas no enhancement was observed in samples from nonallergic subjects. Our data suggest that substance P may regulate allergic reactions via enhanced production of certain regulatory cytokines.