Surfactant protein (SP)-D is an oligomeric glycoprotein belonging to the family of collagen-like lectins known as collectins, which have previously been shown to stimulate phagocytosis and other immune cell functions. The hypothesis investigated in this study was that SP-D would stimulate the phagocytosis of an important pulmonary pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. SP-D, isolated from the lavage fluid of silica-treated rats, significantly enhanced the uptake of three of six strains of P. aeruginosa by rat alveolar macrophages as analyzed by both fluorescence and electron microscopy. SP-D had only minimal effects on phagocytosis of Haemophilus influenzae. SP-D bound to live P. aeruginosa, and binding was inhibited by chelation of calcium and by a competing saccharide, inositol. In vitro killing assays demonstrated that macrophage-mediated killing of one of the mucoid strains of P. aeruginosa was modestly enhanced by SP-D. P. aeruginosa was not measurably aggregated by SP-D either macroscopically or microscopically. Further, SP-D does not appear to act as an activation ligand because adherence of macrophages to SP-D- coated slides did not stimulate the uptake of P. aeruginosa. These findings suggest that SP-D may be important in controlling the pathogenesis of P. aeruginosa in the lung.