ABSTRACT Purpose: To investigate the effects of propofol on inflammatory response and activation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway in rats with ventilator-associated lung injury (VALI). Methods: Thirty-six Sprague Dawley (SD) rats were divided into control, VALI and VALI+propofol groups. The VALI group received the mechanical ventilation for 2 h. The VALI+propofol group received the mechanical ventilation for 2 h, which was accompanied by intravenous injection of propofol with dose of 8 mg·kg-1·h-1. At the end, the mean arterial pressure (MAP) and blood gas indexes were measured, and the lung wet/dry mass ratio (W/D) and biochemical indexes of lung tissue and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) were determined. Results: Compared with VALI group, in VALI+propofol group the blood pH, partial pressure of oxygen, partial pressure of carbon dioxide and MAP were increased, the lung W/D, lung tissue myeloperoxidase activity and total protein concentration, white blood cell count, and tumor necrosis factor α, interleukin 1β and interleukin 6 levels in BALF were decreased, and the p-p38 MAPK protein expression level and phosphorylated p38 MAPK (p-p38 MAPK)/p38 MAPK ratio were decreased. Conclusions: Propofol treatment may alleviate the VALI in rats by reducing the inflammatory response and inhibiting the activation of p38 MAPK signaling pathway.