The biophysical function of pulmonary surfactant

Sandra Rugonyi, Samares C. Biswas, Stephen B. Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Pulmonary surfactant lowers surface tension in the lungs. Physiological studies indicate two key aspects of this function: that the surfactant film forms rapidly; and that when compressed by the shrinking alveolar area during exhalation, the film reduces surface tension to very low values. These observations suggest that surfactant vesicles adsorb quickly, and that during compression, the adsorbed film resists the tendency to collapse from the interface to form a 3D bulk phase. Available evidence suggests that adsorption occurs by way of a rate-limiting structure that bridges the gap between the vesicle and the interface, and that the adsorbed film avoids collapse by undergoing a process of solidification. Current models, although incomplete, suggest mechanisms that would partially explain both rapid adsorption and resistance to collapse as well as how different constituents of pulmonary surfactant might affect its behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)244-255
Number of pages12
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Nov 30 2008


  • Adsorption
  • Collapse
  • Lungs
  • Surface tension
  • Surfactant proteins
  • Ventilation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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