Background Ozone (O3), a common air pollutant, induces exacerbation of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Pulmonary surfactant protein (SP)-D modulates immune and inflammatory responses in the lung. We have shown previously that SP-D plays a protective role in a mouse model of allergic airway inflammation. Here we studied the role and regulation of SP-D in O3-induced inflammatory changes in the lung. Methods To evaluate the effects of O3 exposure in mouse strains with genetically different expression levels of SP-D we exposed Balb/c, C57BL/6 and SP-D knockout mice to O3 or air. BAL cellular and cytokine content and SP-D levels were evaluated and compared between the different strains. The kinetics of SP-D production and inflammatory parameters were studied at 0, 2, 6, 12, 24, 48, and 72 hrs after O3 exposure. The effect of IL-6, an O3-inducible cytokine, on the expression of SP-D was investigated in vitro using a primary alveolar type II cell culture. Results Ozone-exposed Balb/c mice demonstrated significantly enhanced acute inflammatory changes including recruitment of inflammatory cells and release of KC and IL-12p70 when compared with age- and sex-matched C57BL/6 mice. On the other hand, C57BL/6 mice had significantly higher levels of SP-D and released more IL-10 and IL-6. Increase in SP-D production coincided with the resolution of inflammatory changes. Mice deficient in SP-D had significantly higher numbers of inflammatory cells when compared to controls supporting the notion that SP-D has an anti-inflammatory function in our model of O3 exposure. IL-6, which was highly up-regulated in O3 exposed mice, was capable of inducing the expression of SP-D in vitro in a dose dependent manner. Conclusion Our data suggest that IL-6 contributes to the up-regulation of SP-D after acute O3 exposure and elevation of SP-D in the lung is associated with the resolution of inflammation. Absence or low levels of SP-D predispose to enhanced inflammatory changes following acute oxidative stress.