Surfactant protein D: Subcellular localization in nonciliated bronchiolar epithelial cells

E. C. Crouch, D. Parghi, S. F. Kuan, A. Persson

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Surfactant protein D (SP-D, CP4) is a collagenous surfactant-associated carbohydrate binding protein that was initially characterized as a biosynthetic product of type II pneumocytes. Immunoperoxidase studies of formaldehyde solution-fixed and paraffin-embedded rat lung demonstrated staining for SP-D in the cytoplasm of a subpopulation of bronchiolar epithelial cells as well as type II cells. Accordingly, immunogold-labeling techniques were used to further examine the cellular distribution and subcellular localization of SP-D in the small airways. Lung tissues were fixed with 0.5% glutaraldehyde-3% paraformaldehyde and embedded in LR White resin. Sections were reacted with affinity purified polyclonal antibodies to SP-D, and sites of antibody binding were demonstrated using a biotinylated secondary antibody-streptavidin-gold detection system. Anti-SP-D selectively decorated secretory compartments of nonciliated bronchiolar cells (Clara cells) with strong and specific labeling of apical electron-dense secretory granules. Almost all of the granules in nonciliated columnar cells were labeled; however, labeling was typically nonuniform, with preferential decoration of the periphery of the granule. The largest numbers of immunoreactive epithelial cells were observed in the distal membranous bronchioles, with progressively smaller numbers of cells in more proximal bronchioles. There was no detectable labeling of cells lining the large cartilagenous airways or trachea. These studies provide evidence that SP-D is a secretory product of nonciliated bronchiolar cells. We suggest that Clara cell-derived SP-D is a component of bronchiolar lining material, consistent with our hypothesis that SP-D contributes to surfactant metabolism and/or host defense within small airways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)L60-L66
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number1 7-1
StatePublished - 1992


  • Clara cells
  • lectin
  • lung
  • secretory granules


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