The Trophic Life Cycle Stage of Pneumocystis Species Induces Protective Adaptive Responses without Inflammation-Mediated Progression to Pneumonia


Pneumocystis species are fungal pathogens that cause pneumonia in immunocompromised hosts. Lung damage during Pneumocystis pneumonia is predominately due to the inflammatory immune response. Pneumocystis species have a biphasic life cycle. Optimal innate immune responses to Pneumocystis species are dependent on stimulation with the cyst life cycle stage. Conversely, the trophic life cycle stage broadly suppresses proinflammatory responses to multiple pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs), including β-1,3-glucan. Little is known about the contribution of these life cycle stages to the development of protective adaptive responses to Pneumocystis infection. Here we report that CD4+ T cells primed in the presence of trophic forms are sufficient to mediate clearance of trophic forms and cysts. In addition, primary infection with trophic forms is sufficient to prime B-cell memory responses capable of clearing a secondary infection with Pneumocystis following CD4+ T cell depletion. While trophic forms are sufficient for initiation of adaptive immune responses in immunocompetent mice, infection of immunocompromised recombination-activating gene 2 knockout (RAG2−/−) mice with trophic forms in the absence of cysts does not lead to the severe weight loss and infiltration of innate immune cells associated with the development of Pneumocystis pneumonia.

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Published in Medical Mycology, v. 56, issue 8, p. 994-1005.

© The Author(s) 2017

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This work was supported by a Public Health Services grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health [R21 AI118818].