Pulmonary surfactant, a complex of lipids and proteins, functions to keep alveoli from collapsing at expiration. Surfactant proteins A (SP-A) and D (SP-D) belong to the collectin family and play pivotal roles in the innate immunity of the lung. Pulmonary collectins directly bind with broad specificities to a variety of microorganism and possess antimicrobial effects. These proteins also exhibit both inflammatory and anti-inflammatory functions, which occur through interactions with pattern recognition receptors including Toll-like receptor and CD14, signal inhibitory regulatory protein a and a receptor complex of calreticulin and CD91. The collectins enhance phagocytosis of microbes by macrophages through opsonic and/or non-opsonic activities. The proteins stimulate cell surface expression of phagocytic receptors including scavenger receptor A and mannose receptor. Since the expression of SP-A and SP-D is abundant and restricted within the lung, the proteins are now clinically used as biomarkers for lung diseases. The levels of SP-A and SP-D in bronchoalveolar lavage fluids, amniotic fluids, tracheal aspirates and pleural effusions reflect alterations in alveolar compartments and epithelium, and lung maturity. The determination of SP-A and SP-D in sera is a non-invasive and useful tool for understanding some pathological changes of the lung in the diseases, including pulmonary fibrosis, collagen vascular diseases complicated with interstitial lung disease, pulmonary alveolar proteinosis, acute respiratory distress syndrome and radiation pneumonitis.