Intratracheal endotoxin causes acute inflammation in the adult lung, and injurious styles of mechanical ventilation can result in systemic inflammation derived from the lungs. We asked how ventilated premature and near-term lungs responded to intratracheal endotoxin and if systemic inflammation occurred. Lambs delivered at 130 d gestational age (GA) were treated with surfactant or surfactant plus endotoxin (0.1 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg) (Escherichia coli, serotype O55:B5) and were ventilated for 6 h. Both endotoxin doses resulted in impaired gas exchange and systemic inflammation in the preterm lambs. Lambs at 141 d GA (term 146 d) were given either 10 mg/kg intratracheal endotoxin, 10 mg/kg endotoxin plus high tidal volume ventilation for the first 30 min of life, or 5 microg/kg endotoxin given intravenously. Endotoxin alone (10 mg/kg) caused lung inflammation but no systemic effects after 6 h of ventilation. Lambs given 10 mg/kg endotoxin plus high tidal volume ventilation or 5 microg/kg endotoxin intravenously had decreased gas exchange and systemic inflammation. Endotoxin was detected in the plasma of lambs at 130 d GA but not at 141 d GA. Inflammation in the lungs was more severe in preterm animals. Mechanical ventilation of the endotoxin-exposed preterm lung resulted in systemic effects at a low endotoxin dose and without high tidal volume ventilation.