The molecular basis of pulmonary alveolar proteinosis

Clin Immunol. 2010 May;135(2):223-35. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2010.02.017. Epub 2010 Mar 25.


Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP) comprises a heterogenous group of diseases characterized by abnormal surfactant accumulation resulting in respiratory insufficiency, and defects in alveolar macrophage- and neutrophil-mediated host defense. Basic, clinical and translational research over the past two decades have raised PAP from obscurity, identifying the molecular pathogenesis in over 90% of cases as a spectrum of diseases involving the disruption of GM-CSF signaling. Autoimmune PAP represents the vast majority of cases and is caused by neutralizing GM-CSF autoantibodies. Genetic mutations that disrupt GM-CSF receptor signaling comprise a rare form of hereditary PAP. In both autoimmune and hereditary PAP, loss of GM-CSF signaling blocks the terminal differentiation of alveolar macrophages in the lungs impairing the ability of alveolar macrophages to catabolize surfactant and to perform many host defense functions. Secondary PAP occurs in a variety of clinical diseases that presumedly cause the syndrome by reducing the numbers or functions of alveolar macrophages, thereby impairing alveolar macrophage-mediated pulmonary surfactant clearance. A similar phenotype occurs in mice deficient in the production of GM-CSF or GM-CSF receptors. PAP and related research has uncovered a critical and emerging role for GM-CSF in the regulation of pulmonary surfactant homeostasis, lung host defense, and systemic immunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoantibodies / immunology
  • Autoantigens / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / genetics
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / genetics*
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis / genetics*
  • Pulmonary Alveolar Proteinosis / immunology*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / immunology
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / metabolism
  • Receptors, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / genetics
  • Receptors, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor / metabolism


  • Autoantibodies
  • Autoantigens
  • Pulmonary Surfactants
  • Receptors, Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor