We studied the effect of increasing airway resistance on equilibration of airway and alveolar pressure during passive expiratory airflow interruption. In 10 anesthetized and paralyzed rabbits, airway and alveolar pressures were compared before and after airway resistance was increased with methacholine. In all studies, airway pressure rose to equilibrate with alveolar pressure immediately after the interruption (delta Pinit) regardless of increases in airway resistance. The pressures then remained equal during the interruption while gradually increasing to plateau (delta Pdiff). Before methacholine exposure, delta Pdiff was small (0.6 +/- 0.3 cmH2O). Steady-state resistance calculated from the sum of delta Pinit and delta Pdiff was similar to airway resistance calculated from delta Pinit alone. After methacholine, increased airway resistance was accompanied by increased delta Pdiff (2.0 +/- 0.5 cmH2O), causing disproportionate increase in steady-state resistance. delta Pdiff increases were equal in the airway and alveoli, implying resistive changes distal to the sampled alveoli. Thus increasing airway resistance did not delay pressure equilibration across airways. However, increases in airway resistance were accompanied by tissue resistive changes that were greater than the increases in airway resistance.