Hydrophobic surfactant proteins and their analogues

Neonatology. 2007;91(4):303-10. doi: 10.1159/000101346. Epub 2007 Jun 7.


Lung surfactant is a complex mixture of phospholipids and four surfactant-associated proteins (SP-A, SP-B, SP-C and SP-D). Its major function in the lung alveolus is to reduce surface tension at the air-water interface in the terminal airways by the formation of a surface-active film enriched in surfactant lipids, hence preventing cellular collapse during respiration. Surfactant therapy using bovine or porcine lung surfactant extracts, which contain only polar lipids and native SP-B and SP-C, has dramatically improved the therapeutic outcomes of preterm infants with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). One important goal of surfactant researchers is to replace animal-derived therapies with fully synthetic preparations based on SP-B and SP-C, produced by recombinant technology or peptide synthesis, and reconstituted with selected synthetic lipids. Here, we review recent research developments with peptide analogues of SP-B and SP-C, designed using either the known primary sequence and three-dimensional (3D) structure of the native proteins or, alternatively, the known 3D structures of closely homologous proteins. Such SP-B and SP-C mimics offer the possibility of studying the mechanisms of action of the respective native proteins, and may allow the design of optimized surfactant formulations for specific pulmonary diseases (e.g., acute lung injury (ALI) or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)). These synthetic surfactant preparations may also be a cost-saving therapeutic approach, with better quality control than may be obtained with animal-based treatments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Disulfides / analysis
  • Humans
  • Lung / physiology*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Protein Conformation
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein A / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein A / physiology
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein B / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein B / physiology
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein C / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein C / physiology
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein D / physiology
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Proteins / chemistry*
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Proteins / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / chemistry*
  • Respiratory Mechanics
  • Sequence Alignment


  • Disulfides
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein A
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein B
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein C
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein D
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Proteins
  • Pulmonary Surfactants