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Surface activity in vitro: role of surfactant proteins.

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Department of Ob/Gyn, University of Western Ontario, London Health Sciences Centre - University Campus, 339 Windermere Road, Ontario, N6A 5A5, London, Canada.


Pattle, who provided some of the initial direct evidence for the presence of pulmonary surfactant in the lung, was also the first to show surfactant was susceptible to proteases such as trypsin. Pattle concluded surfactant was a lipoprotein. Our group has investigated the roles of the surfactant proteins (SP-) SP-A, SP-B, and SP-C using a captive bubble tensiometer. These studies show that SP-C>SP-B>SP-A in enhancing surfactant lipid adsorption (film formation) to the equilibrium surface tension of approximately 22-25 mN/m from the 70 mN/m of saline at 37 degrees C. In addition to enhancing adsorption, surfactant proteins can stabilize surfactant films so that lateral compression induced through surface area reduction results in the lowering of surface tension (gamma) from approximately 25 mN/m (equilibrium) to values near 0 mN/m. These low tensions, which are required to stabilize alveoli during expiration, are thought to arise through exclusion of fluid phospholipids from the surface monolayer, resulting in an enrichment in the gel phase component dipalmitoylphosphatidylcholine (DPPC). The results are consistent with DPPC enrichment occurring through two mechanisms, selective DPPC adsorption and preferential squeeze-out of fluid components such as unsaturated phosphatidylcholine (PC) and phosphatidylglycerol (PG) from the monolayer. Evidence for selective DPPC adsorption arises from experiments showing that the surface area reductions required to achieve gamma near 0 mN/m with DPPC/PG samples containing SP-B or SP-A plus SP-B films were less than those predicted for a pure squeeze-out mechanism. Surface activity improves during quasi-static or dynamic compression-expansion cycles, indicating the squeeze-out mechanism also occurs. Although SP-C was not as effective as SP-B in promoting selective DPPC adsorption, this protein is more effective in promoting the reinsertion of lipids forced out of the surface monolayer following overcompression at low gamma values. Addition of SP-A to samples containing SP-B but not SP-C limits the increase in gamma(max) during expansion. It is concluded that the surfactant apoproteins possess distinct overlapping functions. SP-B is effective in selective DPPC insertion during monolayer formation and in PG squeeze-out during monolayer compression. SP-A can promote adsorption during film formation, particularly in the presence of SP-B. SP-C appears to have a superior role to SP-B in formation of the surfactant reservoir and in reinsertion of collapse phase lipids.

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