The Journal of Immunology
Mycoplasma pneumoniae is an extracellular pathogen that colonizes mucosal surfaces of the respiratory tract and is associated with asthma exacerbations. Previous reports demonstrate that surfactant protein-A (SP-A) binds live M. pneumoniae and mycoplasma membrane fractions (MMF) with high affinity. Humans express a repertoire of single-amino acid genetic variants of SP-A that may be associated with lung disease, and our findings demonstrate that allelic differences in SP-A2 (Gln223Lys) affect the binding to MMF. We show that SP-A(-/-) mice are more susceptible to MMF exposure and have significant increases in mucin production and neutrophil recruitment. Novel humanized SP-A2-transgenic mice harboring the hSP-A2 223K allele exhibit reduced neutrophil influx and mucin production in the lungs when challenged with MMF compared with SP-A(-/-) mice. Conversely, mice expressing hSP-A2 223Q have increased neutrophil influx and mucin production that are similar to SP-A(-/-) mice. Using tracheal epithelial cell cultures, we show that enhanced mucin production to MMF occurs in the absence of SP-A and is not dependent upon neutrophil recruitment. Increased phosphorylation of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) was evident in the lungs of MMF-challenged mice when SP-A was absent. Pharmacologic inhibition of EGFR prior to MMF challenge dramatically reduced mucin production in SP-A(-/-) mice. These findings suggest a protective role for SP-A in limiting MMF-stimulated mucin production that occurs through interference with EGFR-mediated signaling. SP-A interaction with the EGFR signaling pathway appears to occur in an allele-specific manner that may have important implications for SP-A polymorphisms in human diseases.