A characteristic feature of all inflammatory disorders is the excessive recruitment of leukocytes to the site of inflammation. The loss of control in trafficking these cells contributes to inflammatory diseases. Leukocyte recruitment is a well-orchestrated process that includes several protein families including the large cytokine subfamily of chemotactic cytokines, the chemokines. Chemokines and their receptors are involved in the pathogenesis of several diseases. Acute lung injury that clinically manifests as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is caused by an uncontrolled systemic inflammatory response resulting from clinical events including major surgery, trauma, multiple transfusions, severe burns, pancreatitis, and sepsis. Systemic inflammatory response syndrome involves activation of alveolar macrophages and sequestered neutrophils in the lung. The clinical hallmarks of ARDS are severe hypoxemia, diffuse bilateral pulmonary infiltrates, and normal intracardiac filling pressures. The magnitude and duration of the inflammatory process may ultimately determine the outcome in patients with ARDS. Recent evidence shows that activated leukocytes and chemokines play a key role in the pathogenesis of ARDS. The expanding number of antagonists of chemokine receptors for inflammatory disorders may hold promise for new medicines to combat ARDS.