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Histochem Cell Biol. 2009 Sep;132(3):331-8. doi: 10.1007/s00418-009-0609-x. Epub 2009 May 30.

Human parotid and submandibular glands express and secrete surfactant proteins A, B, C and D.

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Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, Grosse Steinstr. 52, 06097, Halle/Saale, Germany.


The oral cavity and the salivary glands are open to the oral environment and are thus exposed to multiple microbiological, chemical and mechanical influences. The existence of an efficient defense system is essential to ensure healthy and physiological function of the oral cavity. Surfactant proteins play an important role in innate immunity and surface stability of fluids. This study aimed to evaluate the expression and presence of surfactant proteins (SP) A, B, C, and D in human salivary glands and saliva. The expression of mRNA for SP-A, -B, -C and -D was analyzed by RT-PCR in healthy parotid and submandibular glands. Deposition of all surfactant proteins was determined with monoclonal antibodies by means of Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry in healthy tissues and saliva of volunteers. Our results show that all four surfactant proteins SP-A, SP-B, SP-C and SP-D are peptides of saliva and salivary glands. Based on the known direct and indirect antimicrobial effects of collectins, the surfactant-associated proteins A and D appear to be involved in immune defense inside the oral cavity. Furthermore, by lowering surface tension between saliva and the epithelial lining of excretory ducts, SP-B and SP-C may assist in drainage and outflow into the oral cavity. Further functions such as pellicle formation on teeth have yet to be determined.

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