BACKGROUND: Functional deficiency of mannose-binding lectin (MBL) may contribute to the pathogenesis of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. We hypothesized that specific MBL2 gene polymorphisms and circulating MBL protein levels are associated with clinically relevant outcomes in the Predicting Outcome using systemic Markers In Severe Exacerbations of COPD PROMISE-COPD cohort. METHODS: We followed 277 patients with stable COPD GOLD stage II-IV COPD over a median period of 733 days (IQR 641-767) taking survival as the primary outcome parameter. Patients were dichotomized as frequent (>/=2 AECOPD/year) or infrequent exacerbators. Serum MBL levels and single nucleotide polymorphisms of the MBL2 gene were assessed at baseline. RESULTS: The MBL2-HYPD haplotype was significantly more prevalent in frequent exacerbators (OR: 3.33; 95 % CI, 1.24-7.14, p = 0.01). The median serum MBL concentration was similar in frequent (607 ng/ml, [IQR; 363.0-896.0 ng/ml]) and infrequent exacerbators (615 ng/ml, [IQR; 371.0-942.0 ng/ml]). Serum MBL was not associated with lung function characteristics or bacterial colonization in sputum. However, high serum MBL at stable state was associated with better survival compared to low MBL (p = 0.046, log rank test). CONCLUSIONS: In COPD, the HYPD haplotype of MBL2 gene is associated with frequent exacerbations and high serum MBL is linked to increased survival. The PROMISE-COPD study was registered at www.controlled-trials.com under the identifier ISRCTN99586989 .