Functional characterization of the different oligomeric forms of human surfactant protein SP-D

Arroyo R, Echaide M, Moreno-Herrero F, Perez-Gil J, Kingma PS

Surfactant Protein D (SP-D) is a collectin protein that participates in the innate immune defense of the lungs. SP-D mediates the clearance of invading microorganisms by opsonization, aggregation or direct killing, which are lately removed by macrophages.

SP-D is found as a mixture of trimers, hexamers, dodecamers and higher order oligomers, “fuzzy balls”. However, it is unknown whether there are differences between these oligomeric forms in functions, activity or potency.

In the present work, we have obtained fractions enriched in trimers, hexamers and fuzzy balls of full-length recombinant human (rh) SP-D by size exclusion chromatography, in a sufficient amount to perform functional assays. We have evaluated the differences in protein lectin-dependent activity relative to aggregation and binding to E. coli, one of the ligands of SP-D in vivo. Fuzzy balls are the most active oligomeric form in terms of binding and aggregation of bacteria, achieving 2-fold binding higher than hexamers and 50% bacteria aggregation at very short times. Hexamers, recently described as a defined oligomeric form of the protein, have never been isolated or tested in terms of protein activity. rhSP-D hexamers efficiently bind and aggregate bacteria, achieving 50–60% aggregation at final time point and high protein concentrations. Nevertheless, trimers are not able to aggregate bacteria, although they bind to them. Therefore, SP-D potency, in functions that relay on the C-lectin activity of the protein, is proportional to the oligomeric state of the protein.