Many plant-derived flavonoids including quercetin exhibit antioxidant and antiinflammatory properties. Proinflammatory cytokines and oxidative stress play an important role in acute pancreatitis. This study aimed to evaluate the effect of quercetin on cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis in mice. Animal groups were pretreated with quercetin (25, 50, 100 mg/kg, per os (p.o.)), thalidomide (200 mg/kg, p.o.) or vehicle (2% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO)) 1 h before hourly (x5) intraperitoneal injections of cerulein. A saline (0.9%, NaCl)-treated control group was included for comparison. Cerulein significantly enhanced the serum levels of amylase and lipase, and pancreatic myeloperoxidase activities, malondialdehyde and the proinflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin-1beta (IL-1beta), and IL-6, as well as the pancreatic wet weight/body weight ratio. Cerulein significantly reduced the serum levels of IL-10. Histological assessment of the pancreas showed tissue edema, neutrophil infiltration, acinar vacuolization, and cell necrosis and a marked increase in the immunoreactivity staining for TNF-alpha. Pretreatment with quercetin or thalidomide significantly attenuated the severity of cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis as evidenced by effective reductions in the pancreatic wet weight/body weight ratio, biochemical indices, proinflammatory cytokines, myeloperoxidase activity, malondialdehyde formation, and an increase in antiinflammatory cytokine IL-10. Quercetin treatment also markedly suppressed the histological changes such as pancreatic edema, inflammatory cell infiltration, acinar cell necrosis, and the expression of TNF-alpha. Taken together, these results indicate that quercetin ameliorates the severity of cerulein-induced acute pancreatitis by acting as an antiinflammatory and antioxidant agent.