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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2012 Mar;46(3):290-8. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2011-0154OC. Epub 2011 Sep 29.

Pneumocystis elicits a STAT6-dependent, strain-specific innate immune response and airway hyperresponsiveness.

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Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, USA.


It is widely held that exposure to pathogens such as fungi can be an agent of comorbidity, such as exacerbation of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Although many studies have examined allergic responses to fungi and their effects on pulmonary function, the possible pathologic implications of the early innate responses to fungal pathogens have not been explored. We examined early responses to the atypical fungus Pneumocystis in two common strains of mice in terms of overall immunological response and related pathology, such as cell damage and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). We found a strong strain-specific response in BALB/c mice that included recruitment of neutrophils, NK, NKT, and CD4 T cells. This response was accompanied by elevated indicators of lung damage (bronchoalveolar lavage fluid albumin and LDH) and profound AHR. This early response was absent in C57BL/6 mice, although both strains exhibited a later response associated with the clearance of Pneumocystis. We found that this AHR could not be attributed exclusively to the presence of recruited neutrophils, NKT, NK, or CD4 cells or to the actions of IFN-γ or IL-4. However, in the absence of STAT6 signaling, AHR and inflammatory cell recruitment were virtually absent. Gene expression analysis indicated that this early response included activation of several transcription factors that could be involved in pulmonary remodeling. These results show that exposure to a fungus such as Pneumocystis can elicit pulmonary responses that may contribute to morbidity, even without prior sensitization, in the context of certain genetic backgrounds.

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