Bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) or induced sputum (IS) techniques may provide leukocytes for the evaluation of airway inflammatory response in bronchial asthma. The aim of the present study was to compare features of leukocyte populations obtained by the two different methods regarding the cell types and their activity in patients with bronchial asthma. The nitric oxide (NO) level released from the cells was measured as a marker of their activity. Pulmonary leukocytes were obtained from the BAL and IS of 11 asthmatic patients in stable condition at the time of the study. The BAL and IS leukocyte populations varied in cell count and NO production. Macrophages were the predominant leukocyte population in BAL (median (Me) = 83.0%, range 67.9-88.4%), whereas sputum sediments were found to consist mainly of neutrophils (Me = 55.7%, range 29.0-64.9%). The IS leukocytes released much more NO (p = 0.0022) than the BAL leukocytes. In spite of these quantitative differences, a similar pattern of NO production was observed in BAL and in IS cells. Both BAL and IS leukocyte populations produced almost the same amounts of NO before and after lipopolysaccharide stimulation (p = 0.9063, p = 0.4801, respectively). Furthermore, a slight positive correlation Spearman's rank (RS) = 0.5578, p = 0.0594) was noticed between the neutrophil percentages and NO levels produced by BAL cells, whereas in IS a statistically significant correlation between the percentage of neutrophils and the levels of NO (RS = 0.6643, p = 0.0184) was observed. In conclusion, the BAL and IS leukocyte populations are different in cell type, their size and activity. Depending on the asthma severity and the type of cells needed in a study, either BAL or IS specimens may be chosen as a source of pulmonary leukocytes. The use of IS as a noninvasive technique is supposed to be potential value particularly in the study of the airway inflammatory response mediated mainly by neutrophils, i.e. during and/or after exacerbation of the disease. Based on our results, a possible contribution of neutrophils in the production of NO in the airways of asthmatic patients can be proposed apart from other cells such as macrophages.