Silent information regulator 2-related enzyme 1 (SIRT1), a protein deacetylase, is known to strongly protect cells against oxidative stress-induced injury. The nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (NRF2)-antioxidant response element (ARE) antioxidant pathway plays important regulatory roles in the antioxidant therapy of paraquat (PQ) poisoning. In the present study, we investigated whether the SIRT1/NRF2/ARE signaling pathway plays an important role in lung injury induced by PQ. For this purpose, mouse type II alveolar epithelial cells (AECs‑II) were exposed to various concentrations of PQ. The overexpression or silencing of SIRT1 was induced by transfecting the cells with a SIRT1 overexpression vector or shRNA targeting SIRT1, respectively. The protein expression levels of SIRT1 and NRF2 were measured by western blot analysis. The superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) activities, as well as the glutathione (GSH) and malondialdehyde (MDA) levels were measured using respective kits. Heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) activity was also determined by ELISA. In addition, cell apoptosis was determined by flow cytometry. The protein stability of NRF2 was analyzed using cycloheximide and its acetylation in the cells was also determined. The following findings were obtained: i) SIRT1 overexpression markedly increased NRF2 protein expression; ii) SIRT1 promoted the transcriptional activity of NRF2 and upregulated the expression of the NRF2 downstream genes, SOD, CAT, GSH and HO-1, thus inhibiting the apoptosis of AECs‑II; iii) the inhibition of SIRT1 activity further induced the production of malondialdehyde (MDA), which resulted in increased oxidative damage; iv) SIRT1 promoted the stability of NRF2 by regulating the deacetylation and activation of the NRF2/ARE antioxidant pathway. The findings of this study demonstrate that the protective effects of SIRT1 are associated with the activation of the NRF2/ARE antioxidant pathway in lung injury induced by PQ poisoning.