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Infect Immun. 2009 Mar;77(3):1061-70. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01119-08. Epub 2008 Dec 29.

Role of complement in protection against Cryptococcus gattii infection.

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  • 1Division of Infectious Diseases, Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Los Angeles, CA 90073, USA.


Previous studies have shown that the alternative pathway of complement activation plays an important role in protection against infection with Cryptococcus neoformans. Cryptococcus gattii does not activate the alternative pathway as well as C. neoformans in vitro. The role of complement in C. gattii infection in vivo has not been reported. In this study, we used mice deficient in complement components to investigate the role of complement in protection against a C. gattii isolate from an ongoing outbreak in northwestern North America. While factor B-deficient mice showed an enhanced rate of death, complement component C3-deficient mice died even more rapidly, indicating that the alternative pathway was not the only complement pathway contributing to protection against disease. Both C3- and factor B-deficient mice had increased fungal burdens in comparison to wild-type mice. Histopathology revealed an overwhelming fungal burden in the lungs of these complement-deficient mice, which undoubtedly prevented efficient gas exchange, causing death. Following the fate of radiolabeled organisms showed that both factor B- and C3-deficient mice were less effective than wild-type mice in clearing organisms. However, opsonization of C. gattii with complement components was not sufficient to prolong life in mice deficient in complement. Killing of C. gattii by macrophages in vitro was decreased in the presence of serum from factor B- and C3-deficient versus wild-type mice. In conclusion, we have demonstrated that complement activation is crucial for survival in C. gattii infection. Additionally, we have shown that the alternative pathway of complement activation is not the only complement pathway contributing to protection.

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