The effect of leukotrienes C4 (LTC4) and D4 (LTD4) and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) on mucociliary clearance of the eustachian tube was investigated in vitro and in vivo. Normal ciliated epithelium was obtained from the eustachian tube of guinea pigs and incubated separately with LTC4, LTD4, and PGE2 at concentrations of 10(-8) mol/L and 10(-6) mol/L. Ciliary activity was measured photoelectrically. Leukotriene D4 progressively inhibited ciliary activity, while PGE2 promoted it. Leukotriene C4 also induced ciliary inhibition. One milliliter each of 10(-5) mol/L LTC4, LTD4, and PGE2 was directly injected into the tympanic bullae of chinchillas under anesthesia. The middle ears were examined by otomicroscopy, tympanometry, and auditory brain stem response over time. Clearance of middle ear effusion was delayed by LTC4 and LTD4, as compared with PGE2 and the control. These findings indicate that LTC4 and LTD4 inhibit mucociliary clearance of the eustachian tube.