Interstitial lung disease in both children and adults has been linked to mutations in the lung-specific surfactant protein C (SFTPC) gene. Among these, the missense mutation [isoleucine to threonine at codon 73 = human surfactant protein C (hSP-C(I73T) )] accounts for ∼30% of all described SFTPC mutations. We reported previously that unlike the BRICHOS misfolding SFTPC mutants, expression of hSP-C(I73T) induces lung remodeling and alveolar lipoproteinosis without a substantial Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) stress response or ER-mediated intrinsic apoptosis. We show here that, in contrast to its wild-type counterpart that is directly routed to lysosomal-like organelles for processing, SP-C(I73T) is misdirected to the plasma membrane and subsequently internalized to the endocytic pathway via early endosomes, leading to the accumulation of abnormally processed proSP-C isoforms. Functionally, cells expressing hSP-C(I73T) demonstrated both impaired uptake and degradation of surfactant phospholipid, thus providing a molecular mechanism for the observed lipid accumulation in patients expressing hSP-C(I73T) through the disruption of normal phospholipid recycling. Our data provide evidence for a novel cellular mechanism for conformational protein-associated diseases and suggest a paradigm for mistargeted proteins involved in the disruption of the endosomal/lysosomal sorting machinery.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.