The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that H(2)O(2) decreases the amount of force produced by a given intracellular Ca(2+) concentration (i.e., the Ca(2+) sensitivity) in airway smooth muscle (ASM) in part by mechanisms independent of changes in regulatory myosin light chain (rMLC) phosphorylation. A new preparation was developed and validated in which canine ASM strips were first exposed to H(2)O(2) and then permeabilized with 10% Triton X-100 to assess the persistent effects of H(2)O(2) on Ca(2+) sensitivity. Experiments in which H(2)O(2) was administered before permeabilization revealed a novel mechanism that contributed to reduced Ca(2+) sensitivity independently of changes in rMLC phosphorylation, in addition to an rMLC phosphorylation-dependent mechanism. The mechanism depended on factors not available in the permeabilized ASM strip or in the buffer to which the strip was exposed, since there was no effect when H(2)O(2) was added to permeabilized strips. H(2)O(2) treatment of a maximally thiophosphorylated purified myosin subfragment (heavy meromyosin) significantly reduced actomyosin ATPase activity, suggesting one mechanism by which the phosphorylation-independent reduction in Ca(2+) sensitivity may occur.