For patients with acute lung injury, positive pressure mechanical ventilation is life saving. However, considerable experimental and clinical data have demonstrated that how clinicians set the tidal volume, positive end-expiratory pressure, and plateau airway pressure influences lung injury severity and patient outcomes including mortality. In order to better identify ventilator-associated lung injury (VALI), clinical investigators have sought to measure blood-borne and airspace biological markers of VALI. At the same time, several laboratory-based studies have focused on biological markers of inflammation and organ injury in experimental models in order to clarify the mechanisms of ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI) and VALI. This review summarizes data on biological markers of VALI and VILI from both clinical and experimental studies with an emphasis on markers identified in patients and in the experimental setting. This analysis suggests that measurement of some of these biological markers may be of value in diagnosing VALI and in understanding its pathogenesis.