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Damage to alveolar epithelial cells (AECs) caused by long-term inhalation of large amounts of silica dust plays a significant role in the pathology of silicosis. The present study was undertaken to investigate the regulatory mechanism(s) involved in type II AEC damage from silicon dioxide (SiO2) as well as the mechanism(s) related to the prevention of silicosis by the antifibrotic tetra peptide, N-acetyl-seryl-aspartyl-lysyl-proline (Ac-SDKP). The 2-DE results showed that SiO2 induced endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in A549 cells. In addition, typical apoptotic characteristics were observed using a transmission electron microscope (TEM) in A549 cells stimulated by SiO2 and in type II AECs from silicotic rats. Mechanistic study showed that both Ac-SDKP and 4-phenylbutyrate (4-PBA), an inhibiter of ER stress, attenuated GRP78, phosphor–PERK, phosphor-eIF2α, CHOP and Caspase-12 protein expression in A549 cells stimulated by SiO2 and in type II AECs from silicotic rats. Treatment with Ac-SDKP and 4-PBA in vivo effectively inhibited collagen deposition in the lungs of silicotic rats. In summary, ER stress is involved in the apoptosis of type II AECs both in vitro and in vivo. Ac-SDKP effectively suppresses SiO2-induced apoptosis in type II AECs by attenuating the Caspase-12 and PERK/eIF2α/CHOP pathway activation caused by ER stress, thus preventing silicotic fibrosis.ER stress is involved in the apoptosis of type II AECs in silicosis.Ac-SDKP suppresses SiO2-induced apoptosis of type II AECs both in vitro and in vivo.Ac-SDKP inhibits apoptosis of type II AECs via mediation of ER stress.