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J Biol Chem. 2012 Aug 3;287(32):26666-77. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.368571. Epub 2012 Jun 8.

A unique sugar-binding site mediates the distinct anti-influenza activity of pig surfactant protein D.

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Department of Infectious Diseases and Immunology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Utrecht University, 3584 CL Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Pigs can act as intermediate hosts by which reassorted influenza A virus (IAV) strains can be transmitted to humans and cause pandemic influenza outbreaks. The innate host defense component surfactant protein D (SP-D) interacts with glycans on the hemagglutinin of IAV and contributes to protection against IAV infection in mammals. This study shows that a recombinant trimeric neck lectin fragment derived from porcine SP-D (pSP-D) exhibits profound inhibitory activity against IAV, in contrast to comparable fragments derived from human SP-D. Crystallographic analysis of the pSP-D fragment complexed with a viral sugar component shows that a unique tripeptide loop alters the lectin site conformation of pSP-D. Molecular dynamics simulations highlight the role of this flexible loop, which adopts a more stable conformation upon sugar binding and may facilitate binding to viral glycans through contact with distal portions of the branched mannoside. The combined data demonstrate that porcine-specific structural features of SP-D contribute significantly to its distinct anti-IAV activity. These findings could help explain why pigs serve as important reservoirs for newly emerging pathogenic IAV strains.

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