The pulmonary surfactant system: biochemical and clinical aspects

Lung. 1997;175(1):1-39. doi: 10.1007/pl00007554.


This article starts with a brief account of the history of research on pulmonary surfactant. We will then discuss the morphological aspects and composition of the pulmonary surfactant system. We describe the hydrophilic surfactant proteins A and D and the hydrophobic surfactant proteins B and C, with focus on the crucial roles of these proteins in the dynamics, metabolism, and functions of pulmonary surfactant. Next we discuss the major disorders of the surfactant system. The final part of the review will be focused on the potentials and complications of surfactant therapy in the treatment of some of these disorders. It is our belief that increased knowledge of the surfactant system and its functions will lead to a more optimal composition of the exogenous surfactants and, perhaps, widen their applicability to treatment of surfactant disorders other than neonatal respiratory distress syndrome.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • History, 20th Century
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lung / anatomy & histology
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / chemistry
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Surfactants / therapeutic use
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Newborn / drug therapy


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Pulmonary Surfactants