Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS), caused by lack of pulmonary surfactant, affects 65 000 infants annually in the USA. Surfactant replacement therapy reduces the morbidity and mortality associated with RDS. Human surfactant protein C (SP-C) is an important component of pulmonary surfactant. To produce human SP-C, a construct using the rat whey acidic protein (WAP) promoter and 3' untranslated regions to target expression of the human SP-C gene to the mammary gland of transgenic mice was created. WAP/SP-C mRNA expression was detected in all transgenic lines analysed. SP-C was expressed in a copy-number-dependent and integration-site-independent fashion, with levels of expression ranging from 0.01% to 36.0% of the endogenous mouse WAP mRNA, and WAP/SP-C mRNA expression levels were greater than those of of the endogenous mouse lung SP-C mRNA. Expression at the RNA level was specific to the mammary gland and paralleled the endogenous WAP expression pattern during mammary gland development. Expression and secretion of the SP-C protein in the lactating mammary gland was demonstrated by western blots performed on whole milk using an anti-SP-C polyclonal antibody. Immunoreactive proteins of MW 22 and 12-14 kDa appeared only in transgenic milk. The 22 kDa protein represents the proprotein, and the 12-14 kDa is a processed form of SP-C.