Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP) is a rare syndrome characterized by accumulation of pulmonary surfactant, respiratory insufficiency, and increased infections. It occurs in various clinical settings that disrupt surfactant catabolism in alveolar macrophages, including a relatively more common autoimmune disease caused by GM-CSF autoantibodies and a rare congenital disease caused by CSF2RA mutations. Recent results demonstrate that GM-CSF is crucial for alveolar macrophage terminal differentiation and immune functions, pulmonary surfactant homeostasis, and lung host defense. GM-CSF is also required to determine the basal functional capacity of circulating neutrophils, including adhesion, phagocytosis, and microbial killing. PAP research has illuminated the crucial role of GM-CSF in innate immunity and led to novel therapy for PAP and the potential use of anti-GM-CSF therapy in other common disorders.