Mechanical ventilation is an indispensable life supportive treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the critically ill patients with acute lung injury (ALI) or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). But longer ventilation time has been proven to contribute to the lung injury and has been recognized as ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI). Recent studies have suggested that haem oxygenase-1 (HO-1) signalling pathways may play a critical role in the process of inflammation and autophagy, and autophagy can reduce the damage of VILI partly by activating the HO-1 pathways. Thus, we propose that autophagy, partly through activation of HO-1 pathway, may protect from VILI, which might be a new potential therapeutic target. Although the exact mechanism of autophagy and its exact role in the VILI need to be further explored, at least it provides a potential target in the future prevention of VILI.