The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is associated with a mortality ranging between 40 - 80%. An effective drug therapy, however, is still missing. Many experimental models of ARDS exist enabling a better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology and allowing the establishment of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of patients suffering ARDS. Nitric oxide (NO) and reactive nitrogen species (RNS) are increasingly regarded as key substances within the development of ARDS. However, the definite pathomechanism is not completely understood. The purpose of this article is to review the latest results of experimental studies in reference to the role of NO and RNS in the pathogenesis of ARDS. In addition, current large animal models of ARDS are described and future therapeutic approaches are discussed.