Mucosal immune responses to fungal infection range from T helper type 2 (Th2) cell-directed allergic inflammation to Th1-predominant neutrophilic inflammation, but the mechanisms directing these divergent mucosal immune outcomes and the role of T cells in host defense against mucosal fungal infections are not known. Here we examined the mouse mucosal immune responses to 12 filamentous environmental fungal species over a broad range of exposure doses and determined the requirement of T cells for host defense. For all tested fungi, low-grade conidium exposures induced Th2- and eosinophil-predominant allergic lung disease, whereas higher exposures led to rapid conversion to neutrophil- and Th1 cell-predominant inflammation, a phenomenon we term immune phenotype switching. All fungal exposure doses were further linked to the secretion of interleukin-17A (IL-17A). Fungal infections with Curvularia lunata and Aspergillus fumigatus were typically confined to the airway during allergic inflammation but became locally invasive and disseminated to the brain at higher conidium challenge doses, in association with predominant Th1 responses. Fungal dissemination occurred at relatively low challenge doses with the conidia of Aspergillus fumigatus administered to recombinase activating gene 1 (Rag-1)-deficient mice, which lack B and T cells, but B cell-deficient μMT mice and T helper cell-reconstituted Rag-1-deficient mice were comparable to wild-type mice in preventing fungal dissemination. Our findings demonstrate that Th2 cell-predominant allergic responses followed by immune phenotype switching and fungal dissemination are highly predictable outcomes with progressive fungal infectious burdens and that T helper cell responses are protective against lethal fungal dissemination.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases