An infant with a family history of congenital alveolar proteinosis associated with surfactant protein B (SP-B) deficiency was identified when SP-B was not detected in amniotic fluid obtained at 37, 38, and 40 weeks of gestation. Surfactant replacement with commercially available preparations that contained SP-B was begun soon after delivery. Progressive respiratory failure developed despite continued surfactant replacement, corticosteroid therapy, and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation. The infant died at 54 days of age while awaiting lung transplantation. Surfactant extracted from amniotic fluid, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, and lung tissue had no phosphatidylglycerol; surface tension was 24 dynes/cm (normal, <10 dynes/cm) and did not decrease with in vitro addition of exogenous SP-B. Pulmonary vascular permeability measured with positron emission tomography was twice normal. At autopsy the alveolar proteinosis pattern was less prominent than that seen in affected siblings. Immunoreactivity of SP-B was absent in type II cells, but numerous foreign body granulomas with central immunoreactivity for SP-B and surfactant protein C were present. We conclude that exogenous surfactant replacement did not normalize surfactant composition, activity, or pulmonary vascular permeability. These findings suggest that endogenous SP-B synthesis is necessary for mature surfactant metabolism and function.