Although acute exposure to ozone (03*) has been shown to influence the severity and prevalence of airway hyperresponsiveness, information has been lacking on effects due to long-term exposure at relatively low exposure concentrations. The goals of this study were to determine whether long-term repeated ozone exposures could induce nonspecific hyperresponsiveness in normal, nonatopic (nonsensitized) animals, whether such exposure could exacerbate the preexisting hyperresponsive state in atopic (sensitized) animals, or both. The study was also designed to determine whether gender modulated airway responsiveness related to ozone exposure. Airway responsiveness was measured during and after exposure to 0.1 and 0.3 ppm ozone for 4 hours/day, 4 days/week for 24 weeks in normal, nonsensitized guinea pigs, in guinea pigs sensitized to an allergen (ovalbumin) prior to initiation of ozone exposures, and in animals sensitized concurrently with ozone exposures. Both male and female animals were studied. Ozone exposure did not produce airway hyperresponsiveness in nonsensitized animals. Ozone exposure did exacerbate airway hyperresponsiveness to specific and nonspecific bronchoprovocation in both groups of sensitized animals, and this effect persisted at least 4 weeks after the end of the exposures. Although the overall degree of airway responsiveness did differ between genders (males had more responsive airways than did females), the airway response to ozone exposure did not differ between the two groups. Ozone-induced effects upon airway responsiveness were not associated with the number of pulmonary eosinophils or with any chronic pulmonary inflammatory response. Levels of antigen-specific antibodies increased in sensitized animals, and a significant correlation was observed between airway responsiveness and antibody levels. The results of this study provide support for a role of ambient ozone exposure in exacerbation of airway dysfunction in persons with atopy.