The importance of platelet activating factor in acute pancreatitis was examined by determining the tissue content of endogenous platelet activating factor and the protective effects of TCV-309, a highly selective platelet activating factor blocker, against caerulein induced pancreatitis in rats. Infusion of caerulein (10 micrograms/kg/h) for five hours resulted in about 70% increase in pancreatic weight, 22% rise in protein content, 50% reduction in tissue blood flow, nine fold increase in tissue level of platelet activating factor and 165% rise in plasma amylase as well as histological evidence of acute pancreatitis. Such infusion of caerulein in chronic pancreatic fistula rats caused a marked increase in protein output from basal secretion of 10 mg/30 minutes to 40 mg/30 minutes in the first hour of infusion followed by a decline in protein output to 15-20 mg/30 minutes in the following hours of the experiment. Exogenous platelet activating factor (50 micrograms/kg) injected ip produced similar alterations in weight, protein content, blood flow, and histology of the pancreas but the increment in serum amylase was significantly smaller and pancreatic secretion was reduced below the basal level. TCV-309 (50 micrograms/kg) given ip before caerulein or platelet activating factor administration significantly reduced the biochemical and morphological alterations caused by caerulein and abolished those induced by exogenous platelet activating factor. These results indicate that platelet activating factor plays an important role in the pathogenesis of acute pancreatitis probably by reducing the blood flow and increasing vascular permeability in the pancreas.