Although prior experimental work has demonstrated that anti-interleukin- 8 (anti-IL-8) therapy reduces lung endothelial injury after acid instillation, there is no information regarding the effect of anti-IL-8 on the function of the alveolar epithelial barrier after acid-induced lung injury. Therefore, the primary objective of this study was to determine the effect of acid-induced lung injury on the function of the alveolar epithelium, and secondly to determine whether pretreatment with anti-IL-8 attenuates acid-induced injury to the lung epithelial barrier. Hydrochloric acid (pH = 1.5 in 1/3 normal saline) was instilled into the lungs of anesthetized, ventilated rabbits. Anti-IL-8 monoclonal antibody (2 mg/kg) or saline was given intravenously S rain before acid instillation. Acid instillation into the distal airspaces caused an increase in the alveolar epithelial permeability to protein and an approximately 50% reduction in net alveolar fluid clearance. Because a decrease in net alveolar fluid clearance could be due to lung endothelial injury and increased fluid flux from the blood into the airspaces, additional experiments were carried out in which pulmonary blood flow was eliminated. In the absence of pulmonary blood flow, acid instillation led to a 50% decrease in net alveolar fluid clearance. Pretreatment with anti-IL-8 antibody significantly reduced the acid-mediated increase in bi-directional transport of protein across the alveolar epithelium and restored alveolar fluid clearance to normal. The results indicate that acid instillation causes injury to the alveolar epithelial barrier that can be distinguished from the injury to the lung endothelium. Furthermore, pretreatment with anti-IL-8 therapy prevents acid-induced alveolar epithelial injury, a finding of potential clinical importance.