Surfactant protein B (SP-B) is essential for normal lung surfactant function. Theoretical models predict that the disulfide cross-linked, N- and C-terminal domains of SP-B fold as charged amphipathic helices, and suggest that these adjacent helices participate in critical surfactant activities. This hypothesis is tested using a disulfide-linked construct (Mini-B) based on the primary sequences of the N- and C-terminal domains. Consistent with theoretical predictions of the full-length protein, both isotope-enhanced Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy and molecular modeling confirm the presence of charged amphipathic α-helices in Mini-B. Similar to that observed with native SP-B, Mini-B in model surfactant lipid mixtures exhibits marked in vitro activity, with spread films showing near-zero minimum surface tensions during cycling using captive bubble surfactometry. In vivo, Mini-B shows oxygenation and dynamic compliance that compare favorably with that of full-length SP-B. Mini-B variants (i.e. reduced disulfides or cationic residues replaced by uncharged residues) or Mini-B fragments (i.e. unlinked N- and C-terminal domains) produced greatly attenuated in vivo and in vitro surfactant properties. Hence, the combination of structure and charge for the amphipathic α-helical N- and C-terminal domains are key to SP-B function.
- Amphipathic helices
- Captive bubble surfactometry
- Isotope-enhanced Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy
- Secondary structure
- Surfactant activity