An Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae infection model in swine was established to study the expression of inflammatory cytokines during acute respiratory disease. Lavage fluid, lavage cells consisting primarily of alveolar macrophages, and lung tissue were analyzed for the presence of various cytokines at 2, 4, 8, and 24 h following endotracheal inoculation of A. pleuropneumoniae. Interleukin-1β (IL-1) and IL-8 mRNA levels were elevated within 2 h in lavage cells of animals inoculated with A. pleuropneumoniae but not in cells from controls treated with saline-bovine serum albumin, based on Northern (RNA blot) analysis. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) mRNA was present at low levels in all animals, and the level was not increased at any time point. In situ hybridization was more sensitive than Northern blotting and revealed elevations of all three cytokines in lavage cells within 2 to 4 h of A. pleuropneumoniae inoculation. IL-6 was detected in lavage cells by in situ hybridization but not by Northern blotting. In lung tissue obtained 18 to 24 h after A. pleuropneumoniae instillation, all cytokine mRNAs, including that of IL-6, were detected by Northern blot analysis. The levels of bioactive IL-1 and IL-6 in lavage fluids increased approximately 1,000-fold following A. pleuropneumoniae inoculation, but TNF bioactivity was not detected. Morphological localization of cytokine mRNAs by in situ hybridization indicated markedly increased levels of TNF, IL-1, and IL-8 mRNAs at the periphery of focal lung lesions. These findings indicate that inflammatory cytokines, particularly IL-1 and IL-8, are associated with the development of pleuropneumonia and may contribute to disease severity.