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Oxidative stress plays an important role in the early stage of acute pancreatitis, as well as in the associated multiple organ injury. This study tests the hypothesis that M40401, a new superoxide dismutase mimetic, attenuates experimental acute pancreatitis. Intraperitoneal injection of cerulein in mice resulted in a severe, acute pancreatitis that was characterized by edema, neutrophil infiltration, tissue hemorrhage, and cell necrosis, as well as increases in the serum levels of amylase and/or lipase. The infiltration of the pancreatic tissue of these animals with neutrophils (measured as an increase in myeloperoxidase activity) was associated with expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1, as well as signs of enhanced lipid peroxidation (e.g., increased tissue levels of malondialdehyde). Immunohistochemical examination demonstrated a marked increase in the staining (immunoreactivity) for nitrotyrosine and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase in the pancreas of cerulein-treated mice. In contrast, the degree of pancreatic inflammation and tissue injury (histological score), the expression of intercellular adhesion molecule-1, the staining for nitrotyrosine and poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase, and lipid peroxidation were markedly reduced in pancreatic tissue sections obtained from cerulein-treated mice administered with M40401. These results confirm our hypothesis that superoxide anions play an important role in cerulein-mediated acute pancreatitis and support the possible clinical use of low-molecular-weight synthetic superoxide dismutase mimetics in those conditions that are associated with overproduction of superoxide.