Adrenomedullin (AM), an endogenous peptide, has been shown to have a variety of protective effects on the cardiovascular system. However, the effect of AM on acute lung injury remains unknown. Accordingly, we investigated whether AM infusion ameliorates lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced acute lung injury in rats. Rats were randomized to receive continuous intravenous infusion of AM (0.1 microg x kg(-1) x min(-1)) or vehicle through a microosmotic pump. The animals were intratracheally injected with either LPS (1 mg/kg) or saline. At 6 and 18 h after intratracheal instillation, we performed histological examination and bronchoalveolar lavage and assessed the lung wet/dry weight ratio as an index of acute lung injury. Then we measured the numbers of total cells and neutrophils and the levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha and cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattractant (CINC) in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF). In addition, we evaluated BALF total protein and albumin levels as indexes of lung permeability. LPS instillation caused severe acute lung injury, as indicated by the histological findings and the lung wet/dry weight ratio. However, AM infusion attenuated these LPS-induced abnormalities. AM decreased the numbers of total cells and neutrophils and the levels of TNF-alpha and CINC in BALF. AM also reduced BALF total protein and albumin levels. In addition, AM significantly suppressed apoptosis of alveolar wall cells as indicated by cleaved caspase-3 staining. In conclusion, continuous infusion of AM ameliorated LPS-induced acute lung injury in rats. This beneficial effect of AM on acute lung injury may be mediated by inhibition of inflammation, hyperpermeability, and alveolar wall cell apoptosis.