Human lung surfactant proteins A (SP-A) and D (SP-D) are both collagenous C-type lectins which appear to mediate antimicrobial activity by binding to carbohydrates on micro-organisms and to receptors on phagocytic cells. Purified native SP-A and SP-D, isolated from human bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, were found to bind to whole mite extracts (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) and the purified allergen Der p I, in a carbohydrate-specific and calcium-dependent manner. Binding was inhibited by ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid (EDTA) as well as by maltose in the case of SP-D, or mannose in the case of SP-A. A recombinant polypeptide, which trimerized to form the neck region and carbohydrate recognition domains of SP-D, also inhibited the binding of native SP-D to the whole mite extract and Der p I. Both SP-A and SP-D did not bind to deglycosylated whole mite extracts or to recombinant Der p proteins, which lacked carbohydrate residues. These results suggest that the ability of surfactant proteins to bind certain allergens is mediated through their carbohydrate-recognition domains (CRDs) interacting with carbohydrate residues on the allergens. Moreover, SP-A and SP-D were found to inhibit allergen-specific IgE binding to the mite extracts either via steric hindrance or competitive binding. It is therefore possible that SP-A and SP-D may be involved in the modulation of allergen sensitization and/or the development of allergic reactions.