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Domains of surfactant protein A that affect protein oligomerization, lipid structure and surface tension.

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MRC Immunochemistry Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, OX1 3QU, Oxford, UK.


Surfactant protein A (SP-A) is an abundant protein found in pulmonary surfactant which has been reported to have multiple functions. In this review, we focus on the structural importance of each domain of SP-A in the functions of protein oligomerization, the structural organization of lipids and the surface-active properties of surfactant, with an emphasis on ultrastructural analyses. The N-terminal domain of SP-A is required for disulfide-dependent protein oligomerization, and for binding and aggregation of phospholipids, but there is no evidence that this domain directly interacts with lipid membranes. The collagen-like domain is important for the stability and oligomerization of SP-A. It also contributes shape and dimension to the molecule, and appears to determine membrane spacing in lipid aggregates such as common myelin and tubular myelin. The neck domain of SP-A is primarily involved in protein trimerization, which is critical for many protein functions, but it does not appear to be directly involved in lipid interactions. The globular C-terminal domain of SP-A clearly plays a central role in lipid binding, and in more complex functions such as the formation and/or stabilization of curved membranes. In recent work, we have determined that the maintenance of low surface tension of surfactant in the presence of serum protein inhibitors requires cooperative interactions between the C-terminal and N-terminal domains of the molecule. This effect of SP-A requires a high degree of oligomeric assembly of the protein, and may be mediated by the activity of the protein to alter the form or physical state of surfactant lipid aggregates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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