Towards the Molecular Mechanism of Pulmonary Surfactant Protein SP-B: At the Crossroad of Membrane Permeability and Interfacial Lipid Transfer

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Pulmonary surfactant is a lipid-protein complex that coats the alveolar air-liquid interface, enabling the proper functioning of lung mechanics. The hydrophobic surfactant protein SP-B, in particular, plays an indispensable role in promoting the rapid adsorption of phospholipids into the interface. For this, formation of SP-B ring-shaped assemblies seems to be important, as oligomerization could be required for the ability of the protein to generate membrane contacts and to mediate lipid transfer among surfactant structures. SP-B, together with the other hydrophobic surfactant protein SP-C, also promotes permeability of surfactant membranes to polar molecules although the molecular mechanisms underlying this property, as well as its relevance for the surface activity of the protein, remain undefined. In this work, the contribution of SP-B and SP-C to surfactant membrane permeability has been further investigated, by evaluation of the ability of differently-sized fluorescent polar probes to permeate through giant vesicles with different lipid/protein composition. Our results are consistent with the generation by SP-B of pores with defined size in surfactant membranes. Furthermore, incubation of surfactant with an anti-SP-B antibody not only blocked membrane permeability but also affected lipid transfer into the air-water interface, as observed in a captive bubble surfactometer device. Our findings include the identification of SP-C and anionic phospholipids as modulators required for maintaining native-like permeability features in pulmonary surfactant membranes. Proper permeability through membrane assemblies could be crucial to complement the overall role of surfactant in maintaining alveolar equilibrium, beyond its biophysical function in stabilizing the respiratory air-liquid interface.

Original languageEnglish
Article number166749
JournalJournal of Molecular Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • fluorescent dextrans, giant vesicles, interfacial adsorption, membrane pores, surfactant permeability

ID: 255106833