The p21-activated protein kinases (Paks) have been implicated in the regulation of smooth muscle contractility, but the physiologic effects of Pak activation on airway reactivity in vivo are unknown. A mouse model with a genetic deletion of Pak1 (Pak1-/-) was used to determine the role of Pak in the response of the airways in vivo to challenge with inhaled or intravenous acetylcholine (ACh). Pulmonary resistance was measured in anesthetized mechanically ventilated Pak1-/- and wild type mice. Pak1-/- mice exhibited lower airway reactivity to ACh compared with wild type mice. Tracheal segments dissected from Pak1-/- mice and studied in vitro also exhibited reduced responsiveness to ACh compared with tracheas from wild type mice. Morphometric assessment and pulmonary function analysis revealed no differences in the structure of the airways or lung parenchyma, suggesting that that the reduced airway responsiveness did not result from structural abnormalities in the lungs or airways due to Pak1 deletion. Inhalation of the small molecule synthetic Pak1 inhibitor, IPA3, also significantly reduced in vivo airway responsiveness to ACh and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-Ht) in wild type mice. IPA3 inhibited the contractility of isolated human bronchial tissues to ACh, confirming that this inhibitor is also effective in human airway smooth muscle tissue. The results demonstrate that Pak is a critical component of the contractile activation process in airway smooth muscle, and suggest that Pak inhibition could provide a novel strategy for reducing airway hyperresponsiveness. © 2012 Hoover et al.