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Am J Pathol. 2013 May;182(5):1519-31. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2013.01.050. Epub 2013 Mar 15.

SPLUNC1/BPIFA1 contributes to pulmonary host defense against Klebsiella pneumoniae respiratory infection.

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Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA.


Epithelial host defense proteins comprise a critical component of the pulmonary innate immune response to infection. The short palate, lung, nasal epithelium clone (PLUNC) 1 (SPLUNC1) protein is a member of the bactericidal/permeability-increasing (BPI) fold-containing (BPIF) protein family, sharing structural similarities with BPI-like proteins. SPLUNC1 is a 25 kDa secretory protein that is expressed in nasal, oropharyngeal, and lung epithelia, and has been implicated in airway host defense against Pseudomonas aeruginosa and other organisms. SPLUNC1 is reported to have surfactant properties, which may contribute to anti-biofilm defenses. The objective of this study was to assess the importance of SPLUNC1 surfactant activity in airway epithelial secretions and to explore its biological relevance in the context of a bacterial infection model. Using cultured airway epithelia, we confirmed that SPLUNC1 is critically important for maintenance of low surface tension in airway fluids. Furthermore, we demonstrated that recombinant SPLUNC1 (rSPLUNC1) significantly inhibited Klebsiella pneumoniae biofilm formation on airway epithelia. We subsequently found that Splunc1(-/-) mice were significantly more susceptible to infection with K. pneumoniae, confirming the likely in vivo relevance of this anti-biofilm effect. Our data indicate that SPLUNC1 is a crucial component of mucosal innate immune defense against pulmonary infection by a relevant airway pathogen, and provide further support for the novel hypothesis that SPLUNC1 protein prevents bacterial biofilm formation through its ability to modulate surface tension of airway fluids.

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