SP-A (surfactant protein A) is a lipid-binding collectin primarily involved in innate lung immunity. SP-A interacts with the bacterial rough LPS (lipopolysaccharide) Re-LPS (Re595 mutant of LPS from Salmonella minnesota), but not with smooth LPS. In the present study, we first examined the characteristics of the interaction of human SP-A with Re-LPS. Fluorescence intensity and anisotropy measurements of FITC-labelled Re-LPS in the presence and absence of SP-A indicated that SP-A bound to Re-LPS in solution in a Ca2+-independent manner, with a dissociation constant of 2.8x10(-8) M. In the presence of calcium, a high-mobility complex of SP-A and [3H]Rb-LPS (Rb mutant of LPS from Escherichia coli strain LCD 25) micelles was formed, as detected by sucrose density gradients. Re-LPS aggregation induced by SP-A was further characterized by light scattering. On the other hand, human SP-A inhibited TNF-alpha (tumour necrosis factor-alpha) secretion by human macrophage-like U937 cells stimulated with either Re-LPS or smooth LPS. We further examined the effects of human SP-A on the binding of Re-LPS to LBP (LPS-binding protein) and CD14. SP-A decreased the binding of Re-LPS to CD14, but not to LBP, as detected by cross-linking experiments with 125I-ASD-Re-LPS [125I-labelled sulphosuccinimidyl-2-(p-azidosalicylamido)-1,3-dithiopropionate derivative of Re-LPS] and fluorescence analysis with FITC-Re-LPS. When SP-A, LBP and CD14 were incubated together, SP-A reduced the ability of LBP to transfer 125I-ASD-Re-LPS to CD14. These SP-A effects were not due to the ability of SP-A to aggregate Re-LPS in the presence of calcium, since they were observed in both the absence and the presence of calcium. These studies suggest that SP-A could contribute to modulate Re-LPS responses by altering the competence of the LBP-CD14 receptor complex.