Existing data has shown that SP-A-like protein or mRNA is widely distributed in lamellar bodies such as tissues and mucosal surfaces. Using immunohistochemistry method with a polyclonal antibody against human SP-A, in this study we investigated distribution of immunoreactive pulmonary surfactant protein A (IR-SP-A) in a number of rat tissues. The SP-A-like immunoreactivity was found in alveolar, parenchyma, pleura of lung; myelin sheath of brain; epithelia of Bowman's capsule, glomerulus and renal tubules of kidney; epithelia of colon, stomach, duct of salivary gland, pharynx; and blood vessel wall and connective tissue of extracellular matrix. The positive signal was blocked by pre-absorbed SP-A antigen from recombinant or bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL). SP-A has long been considered as an important frontier host defense molecule which participates in immune and inflammatory regulation of lung. With every inhalation, small particles, viruses, bacteria, and antigens from environment are continuously deposited onto the vast pulmonary epithelial surface. While a proper host defense is required to protect the lung, an over-exuberant response can disrupt the appropriate balance between pro- and anti-inflammatory. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that body is an open system relevant to the external environment. The physical, chemical and biological environmental factors constantly affect the open system, and the body properly reacts to maintain homeostasis of body machinery. The Chinese traditional medicine scholars have thus hypothesized that 'Qi' (meaning air) is the communication way between the body and external environment. What is 'Qi'? The results from our study suggest that IR-SP-A is a candidate of 'Qi'. It is compatible with the sites, theoretically containing collagenous and lectin domain molecules, also compatible with the primary injury sites of some autoimmune diseases. SP-A may be as one of 'Qi' molecules mentioned in traditional Chinese medicine that trigger some of autoimmune diseases.
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