Pulmonary alveolar proteinosis (PAP) is a syndrome of reduced GM-CSF-dependent, macrophage-mediated surfactant clearance, dysfunctional foamy alveolar macrophages, alveolar surfactant accumulation, and hypoxemic respiratory failure for which the pathogenetic mechanism is unknown. Here, we examine the lipids accumulating in alveolar macrophages and surfactant to define the pathogenesis of PAP and evaluate a novel pharmacotherapeutic approach. In PAP patients, alveolar macrophages have a marked increase in cholesterol but only a minor increase in phospholipids, and pulmonary surfactant has an increase in the ratio of cholesterol to phospholipids. Oral statin therapy is associated with clinical, physiological, and radiological improvement in autoimmune PAP patients, and ex vivo statin treatment reduces cholesterol levels in explanted alveolar macrophages. In Csf2rb-/- mice, statin therapy reduces cholesterol accumulation in alveolar macrophages and ameliorates PAP, and ex vivo statin treatment increases cholesterol efflux from macrophages. These results support the feasibility of statin as a novel pathogenesis-based pharmacotherapy of PAP.