Sulforaphane (1-isothiocyanate-4-methyl sulfonyl butane) is a plant extract (obtained from cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cabbage) and is known to exert anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. It stimulates the generation of human or animal cells, which is beneficial to the body. The aim of the current study was to determine whether sulforaphane protects against lipopolysaccharide (LPS)‑induced acute lung injury (ALI) through its anti-inflammatory effects, and to investigate the signaling pathways involved. For this purpose, male BALB/c mice were treated with sulforaphane (50 mg/kg) and 3 days later, ALI was induced by the administration of LPS (5 mg/kg) and we thus established the model of ALI. Our results revealed that sulforaphane significantly decreased lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity (as shown by LDH assay), the wet-to-dry ratio of the lungs and the serum levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) (measured by ELISA), as well as nuclear factor-κB protein expression in mice with LPS-induced ALI. Moreover, treatment with sulforaphane significantly inhibited prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9) protein expression (as shown by western blot analysis), as well as inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) activity in mice with LPS-induced ALI. Lastly, we noted that pre-treatment with sulforaphane activated the nuclear factor-E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)/antioxidant response element (ARE) pathway in the mice with LPS-induced ALI. These findings demonstrate that sulforaphane exerts protective effects against LPS-induced ALI through the Nrf2/ARE pathway. Thus, sulforaphane may be a potential a candidate for use in the treatment of ALI.