The protective effect of synthetic serum thymic factor (FTS) nonapeptide on lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced pancreatic cell damage in 10-week-old BALB/c male mice was investigated. Mice were divided into three groups. Group I was treated with LPS (10 micro g/head; i.p.) (LPS-treated mice). Group II was administered with FTS (50 micro g/head; i.p.) 24 hr before treatment with LPS and complemented immediately before LPS injection with FTS (50 micro g/head; i.p.) (FTS-administered mice). Group III was only treated with the same volume of saline (control mice). Treatment of LPS in vivo resulted in the destruction of pancreatic acinar cells. In those cells, many apoptotic cells were detected by immunohistochemistry using an anti-single stranded DNA antibody. Immunohistochemistry and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) revealed that LPS treatment also caused low or a lack of insulin expression in pancreatic islets. In contrast, morphological change was not seen and apoptotic cell death was suppressed in pancreatic cells of FTS-administered mice. Moreover, insulin expression was normal in those mice. FTS administration enhanced expression of Bcl-2 mRNA levels in pancreatic tissues and IL-6 mRNA levels in splenocytes significantly compared with those of LPS treatment at 3 hr after LPS injection. These findings suggest that FTS prevents LPS-induced cell damage via enhancing Bcl-2 expression in the pancreas and systemic IL-6 production.