Summary: Research over the last decade on the surfactant proteins SP-A and SP-D suggests roles beyond surfactant lipid homeostasis, involving their participation in innate immune defence. SP-A and SP-D bind and agglutinate an impressive array of non-self structures, ranging from bacteria and fungi to allergens and environmental inorganic substrates. Complementing binding, SP-A and SP-D initiate and enhance immune cell ingestion and killing of targets. Recently, some exciting developments have extended and clarified their contributions to innate immunity. Knockout mice for SP-A and SP-D have been developed. The SP-A knockout confirms that SP-A plays a key role in defence against lung pathogens and reveals the underlying defense mechanisms that require SP-A. These surfactant proteins have also been shown to have important roles in modulating the immune response, instructing, yet quenching, the immune reactions in the lung. The crystal structure of SP-D plus functional studies with recombinantly altered forms of SP-A and SP-D has begun to characterise the structural motifs responsible for mediating their immune functions. Linkage and polymorphism analysis is explaining the role these genes may play in lung diseases and infection.