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J Clin Invest. Jan 1992; 89(1): 143–149.
PMCID: PMC442829

120-kD surface glycoprotein of Pneumocystis carinii is a ligand for surfactant protein A.


Pneumocystis carinii is the most common cause of life-threatening pneumonia in immunocompromised patients. In the current study, surfactant protein A (SP-A), the major nonserum protein constituent of pulmonary surfactant, is demonstrated to bind P. carinii in a specific and saturable manner. SP-A is surface bound and does not appear to be internalized or degraded by the P. carinii organism. Furthermore, SP-A binding to P. carinii is time- and calcium-dependent and is competitively inhibited by mannosyl albumin. In the absence of calcium or the presence of excess mannosyl albumin, SP-A binding to P. carinii is reduced by 95 and 71%, respectively. SP-A avidly binds P. carinii with a Kd of 8 x 10(-9) M and an estimated 8.4 x 10(6) SP-A binding sites per P. carinii organism, as determined from Scatchard plots. SP-A is shown to bind P. carinii in vivo, and a putative binding site for SP-A on P. carinii is demonstrated to be the mannoserich surface membrane glycoprotein gp120. These findings suggest that P. carinii can interact with the phospholipid-rich material in the alveolar spaces by specifically binding a major protein constituent of pulmonary surfactant.

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