Two small hydrophobic proteins, SP-B and SP-C, are responsible for rapid adsorption of pulmonary surfactant to the air/water interface. Despite their physiological importance, the number of protein molecules required to trigger an absorption event remains unknown. To investigate this issue, we varied the protein content of calf lung surfactant extract (CLSE) by dilution with protein-depleted surfactant lipids (neutral and phospholipids, N&PL). Vesicles of a constant size and of composition ranging between 100% N&PL and 100% CLSE were generated by probe sonication. Their adsorption kinetics to an air/water interface were monitored at different temperatures using a Wilhelmy plate to measure surface tension. When plotted versus protein concentration, the adsorption rates during the initial change in surface tension exhibit a diphasic behavior, first increasing rapidly and linearly between 0% and 25% CLSE, and then more slowly at higher concentrations. Direct linearity at low protein content (0-5% CLSE ratio) was confirmed at 37 °C. These observations argue against cooperative behavior, for which the adsorption rate would first rise slowly with the protein content, and then increase suddenly once the critical number of proteins on each vesicle is reached. The apparent activation energy Ea and the free energy of activation ΔG0*, calculated from the temperature dependence of adsorption, further support the view that at least the early stages of protein-induced surfactant adsorption proceeds through a sequence of events involving not several, but a single surfactant protein.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology