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J Immunol. 2013 Jun 15;190(12):6287-94. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1300431. Epub 2013 May 6.

STAT4-dependent and -independent Th2 responses correlate with protective immunity against lung infection with Pneumocystis murina.

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Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL 35294, USA.


Although it is clear that the loss of CD4(+) T cells is a predisposing factor for the development of Pneumocystis pneumonia, specific Th mechanisms mediating protection are not well understood. Th1, Th2, and Th17 responses have each been implicated in protective responses during infection. As STAT4 may promote Th1 and Th17 development, yet antagonize Th2 development, we investigated its role in Pneumocystis murina host defense. STAT4 was required for Th1 and, unexpectedly, Th2 responses in the lungs of C57BL/6 (BL/6) and BALB/c mice 14 d postchallenge, but only BALB/c Stat4(-/-) mice demonstrated susceptibility to P. murina lung infection. BL/6 Stat4(-/-), but not BALB/c Stat4(-/-), mice maintained an enhanced alternatively activated (M2) macrophage signature in the lungs, which we have previously reported to be associated with enhanced P. murina clearance. In addition, anti-P. murina class-switched Abs were increased in BL/6 Stat4(-/-) mice, but not BALB/c Stat4(-/-) mice. Supporting our experimental observations, plasma from HIV-infected individuals colonized with Pneumocystis jirovecii contained significantly lower levels of the Th2 cytokines IL-4, IL-5, and IL-13 compared with HIV-infected individuals who were not colonized. Collectively, our data suggest that robust local and systemic Th2-mediated responses are critical for immunity to Pneumocystis.

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