Challenge infections of calves with Pasteurella multocida were established to characterize the local inflammatory response and determine the effect of previous exposure to live bacteria on the post-challenge immune response. Experimental infections were established by intratracheal inoculation of P. multocida in both naive calves and calves that had been previously vaccinated with two subcutaneous (s.c.) injections of live bacteria. Histological, immunohistological and cytokine expression studies were performed on bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) samples, lung parenchymal tissues and lung lymph nodes (LN). In comparison to uninfected control animals in which no lung lesions were observed, a patchy to confluent bronchopneumonia was observed following infection of naive calves, characterized by abscess formation, haemorrhage, oedema and suppurative consolidation. Cellular analysis following infection of naive animals was characterized by an influx of neutrophils in the BAL, with macrophages and dendritic cells observed in the lesion perimeter. A significant increase in the number of CD8(+) blasts expressing MHC (major histocompatibility) II was also observed in the BAL of infected calves. Decreased expression of interleukin (IL)-1 beta and increased expression of IL-8 compared to naive unchallenged controls was apparent in lung LN. In comparison, a more limited pathology was observed in vaccinated animals post-challenge, indicating partial protection conferred by the s.c. immunization with live bacteria. Studies of vaccinated animals showed the presence of bronchial-associated lymphoid tissue (BALT) in the lung tissue and an increase in the number of B-cells and CD4(+) T-cells expressing MHCII in the lung LN after challenge. In contrast to primary infection, there was no significant influx of neutrophils in the BAL. Instead, a population of newly recruited monocytes/macrophages was observed. Increased IL-2 expression and decreased IL-8 expression was observed in the LN, while IL-1 beta expression was not detected. The reduced neutrophil and increase monocyte response in the vaccinated calves may be associated with significant changes in the gamma delta T lymphocyte population in the BAL.