BACKGROUND: Inflammatory lung diseases are a major morbidity factor in children. Therefore, novel strategies for early detection of inflammatory lung diseases are of high interest. Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is recognized via Toll-like receptors and CD14. CD14 exists as a soluble (sCD14) and membrane-associated (mCD14) protein, present on the surface of leukocytes. Previous studies suggest sCD14 as potential marker for inflammatory diseases, but their potential role in pediatric lung diseases remained elusive. Therefore, we examined the expression, regulation and significance of sCD14 and mCD14 in pediatric lung diseases. METHODS: sCD14 levels were quantified in serum and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) of children with infective (pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, CF) and non-infective (asthma) inflammatory lung diseases and healthy control subjects by ELISA. Membrane CD14 expression levels on monocytes in peripheral blood and on alveolar macrophages in BALF were quantified by flow cytometry. In vitro studies were performed to investigate which factors regulate sCD14 release and mCD14 expression. RESULTS: sCD14 serum levels were specifically increased in serum of children with pneumonia compared to CF, asthma and control subjects. In vitro, CpG induced the release of sCD14 levels in a protease-independent manner, whereas LPS-mediated mCD14 shedding was prevented by serine protease inhibition. CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrates for the first time the expression, regulation and clinical significance of soluble and membrane CD14 receptors in pediatric inflammatory lung diseases and suggests sCD14 as potential marker for pneumonia in children.