Epithelial damage is commonly found in airways of asthma patients. The aim of this study was to investigate epithelial damage in allergic and non-allergic asthma at the ultrastructural level. Bronchial biopsies obtained from patients with allergic asthma (n=11), non-allergic asthma (n=7), and healthy controls (n=5) were studied by transmission electron microscopy. Epithelial damage was found to be extensive in both asthma groups. Both in basal and in columnar cells, relative desmosome length was reduced by 30-40%. In columnar cells, half-desmosomes (i.e., desmosomes of which only one side was present) were frequently noticed. Eosinophils showing piece-meal degranulation were commonly observed in allergic asthma. Degranulating mast cells were more often observed in allergic asthma. Goblet cell hyperplasia was only found in allergic asthma. Lymphocytes were increased in both groups. In both groups, the lamina densa of the basal lamina was thicker than the control by about 40-50%. In allergic asthma the lamina densa was irregular with focal thickening. While there was always a tendency for changes (epithelial damage, desmosomes, degranulating mast cells, basal lamina) to be more extensive in allergic asthma compared to non-allergic asthma, there was no significant difference between the two groups in this respect. Reduced desmosomal contact may be an important factor in the epithelial shedding observed in patients with asthma.