A single-projection X-ray technique showed an increase in functional residual capacity (FRC) in conscious mice in response to aerosolized methacholine (MCh) with little change in airway resistance (Raw) measured using barometric plethysmography (Lai-Fook SJ, Houtz PK, Lai Y-L. J Appl Physiol 104: 521-533, 2008). The increase in FRC presumably prevented airway constriction by offsetting airway contractility. We sought a more direct measure of airway constriction. Anesthetized Balb/c mice were intubated with a 22-G catheter, and tantalum dust was insufflated into the lungs to produce a well-defined bronchogram. After overnight recovery, the conscious mouse was placed in a sealed box, and bronchograms were taken at maximum and minimum points of the box pressure cycle before (control) and after 1-min exposures to 25, 50, and 100 mg/ml MCh aerosol. After overnight recovery, each mouse was studied under both room and body temperature box air conditions to correct for gas compression effects on the control tidal volume (Vt) and to determine Vt and Raw with MCh. Airway diameter (D), FRC, and Vt were measured from the X-ray images. Compared with control, D decreased by 24%, frequency decreased by 35%, FRC increased by 120%, and Raw doubled, to reach limiting values with 100 mg/ml MCh. Vt was unchanged with MCh. The limiting D occurred near zero airway elastic recoil, where the maximal contractility was relatively small. The conscious mouse adapted to MCh by breathing at a higher lung volume and reduced frequency to reach a limit in constriction.