Lack of specific and efficient therapy leads to the high mortality rate of acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Losartan is a potent pharmaceutical drug for ALI/ARDS. However, the protective effects and mechanisms of losartan remain incompletely known. This study evaluates the effects of losartan on ALI/ARDS and further investigates the possible mechanisms of these protective effects. Mice received i.p. injections of the AT1 inhibitor losartan (15 mg/kg), or control vehicle, half hour after cecal ligation and puncture (CLP). Plasma TNF-alpha, IL-1beta, and IL-6 cytokines were assayed 6 h after CLP. Blood gas, wet/dry lung weight ratio, lung tissue histology for occurrence of ALI/ARDS, and survival were examined. Lastly, nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) activations, IkappaB-alpha degradations, phosphorylations of p38 MAPK, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase expressions were evaluated in lung tissue. Losartan treatment significantly attenuated TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IL-1beta 6 h after CLP. Furthermore, losartan prevented blood gas and histopathologic appearance of ALI/ARDS after sepsis and significantly improved survival. Finally, losartan given after sepsis led to inhibition of lung tissue NF-kappaB activation (P < 0.01 vs. CLP group), attenuated degradation of IkappaB-alpha, and inhibited phosphorylation of p38MAPK, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2, and c-Jun N-terminal kinase, pathways critical for cytokine release. These data reveal that losartan exerts a protective effect on ALI/ARDS, and this protective effect may be dependent, at least in part, on NF-kappaB and MAPK mechanisms.