Inhalation of acrolein, a highly reactive aldehyde, causes lung edema. The underlying mechanism is poorly understood and there is no effective treatment. In this study, we demonstrated that acrolein not only dose-dependently induced lung edema but also promoted LPS-induced acute lung injury. Importantly, acrolein-induced lung injury was prevented and rescued by Alda-1, an activator of mitochondrial aldehyde dehydrogenase 2. Acrolein also dose-dependently increased monolayer permeability, disrupted adherens junctions and focal adhesion complexes, and caused intercellular gap formation in primary cultured lung microvascular endothelial cells (LMVECs). These effects were attenuated by Alda-1 and the antioxidant N-acetylcysteine, but not by the NADPH inhibitor apocynin. Furthermore, acrolein inhibited AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and increased mitochondrial reactive oxygen species levels in LMVECs—effects that were associated with impaired mitochondrial respiration. AMPK total protein levels were also reduced in lung tissue of mice and LMVECs exposed to acrolein. Activation of AMPK with 5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-1-β-4-ribofuranoside blunted an acrolein-induced increase in endothelial monolayer permeability, but not mitochondrial oxidative stress or inhibition of mitochondrial respiration. Our results suggest that acrolein-induced mitochondrial dysfunction may not contribute to endothelial barrier dysfunction. We speculate that detoxification of acrolein by Alda-1 and activation of AMPK may be novel approaches to prevent and treat acrolein-associated acute lung injury, which may occur after smoke inhalation.