Mice lacking surfactant protein A (SP-A) mRNA and protein in vivo were generated using gene targeting techniques. SP-A (-/-) mice have normal levels of SP-B, SP-C and SP-D mRNA and protein and survive and breed normally in vivarium conditions. Phospholipid composition, secretion and clearance, and incorporation of phospholipid precursors are normal in the SP-A (-/-) mice. Lungs of SP-A (-/-) mice have markedly decreased tubular myelin figures and clear Group B streptococci and Pseudomonas aeruginosa less efficiently than SP-A wild type mice. These studies of SP-A (-/-) mice demonstrate that SP-A has an important role in the innate immune system of the lung in vivo.