The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of astaxanthin extracted from Paracoccus carotinifaciens on gastric mucosal damage in murine gastric ulcer models. Mice were pretreated with astaxanthin for 1 h before ulcer induction. Gastric ulcers were induced in mice by oral administration of hydrochloride (HCl)/ethanol or acidified aspirin. The effect of astaxanthin on lipid peroxidation in murine stomach homogenates was also evaluated by measuring the level of thiobarbituric acid reactive substance (TBARS). The free radical scavenging activities of astaxanthin were also measured by electron spin resonance (ESR) measurements. Astaxanthin significantly decreased the extent of HCl/ethanol- and acidified aspirin-induced gastric ulcers. Astaxanthin also decreased the level of TBARS. The ESR measurement showed that astaxanthin had radical scavenging activities against the 1,1-diphenyl-2-picrylhydrazyl radical and the superoxide anion radical. These results suggest that astaxanthin has antioxidant properties and exerts a protective effect against ulcer formation in murine models. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.