Background Alkaline phosphatase (AP), a dephosphorylating enzyme, is involved in various physiological processes and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. Aim To determine the correlation between pulmonary AP activity and markers of inflammation in invasively ventilated critically ill patients with or without acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), and to investigate the effect of administration of recombinant AP on pulmonary inflammation in a well-established lung injury model in rats Methods AP activity was determined and compared with levels of various inflammatory mediators in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) samples obtained from critically ill patients within 2 days of start of invasive ventilation. The endpoints of this part of the study were the correlations between AP activity and markers of inflammation, i.e., interleukin (IL)-6 levels in BALF. In RccHan Wistar rats, lung injury was induced by intravenous administration of 10 mg/kg lipopolysaccharide, followed by ventilation with a high tidal volume for 4 h. Rats received either an intravenous bolus of 1500 IU/kg recombinant AP or normal saline 2 h after intravenous LPS administration, right before start of ventilation. Endpoints of this part of the study were pulmonary levels of markers of inflammation, including IL-6, and markers of endothelial and epithelial dysfunction. Results BALF was collected from 83 patients; 10 patients had mild ARDS, and 15 had moderate to severe ARDS. AP activity correlated well with levels of IL-6 (r = 0.70), as well as with levels of other inflammatory mediators. Pulmonary AP activity between patients with and without ARDS was comparable (0.33 [0.14–1.20] vs 0.55 [0.21–1.42] U/L; p = 0.37). Animals with acute lung injury had markedly elevated pulmonary AP activity compared to healthy controls (2.58 [2.18–3.59] vs 1.01 [0.80–1.46] U/L; p < 0.01). Intravenous administration of recombinant AP did neither affect pulmonary inflammation nor endothelial and epithelial dysfunction. Conclusions In ventilated critically ill patients, pulmonary AP activity correlates well with markers of pulmonary inflammation, such as IL-6 and IL-8. In animals with lung injury, pulmonary AP activity is elevated. Administration of recombinant AP does not alter pulmonary inflammation and endothelial or epithelial dysfunction in the acute phase of a murine lung injury model.