Human beings are continuously exposed to fungi, yet they rarely get fungal diseases. The delicate balance between the host and these otherwise harmless pathogens may turn into a parasitic relationship, resulting in the development of severe infections. The ability to reversibly switch between unicellular and filamentous forms, all of which can be found in infected tissues, is thought to be important for virulence. Efficient responses to the different forms of fungi require different mechanisms of immunity. Dendritic cells (DC) are uniquely able at decoding the fungus-associated information and translating it in qualitatively different T helper (Th) immune responses, in vitro and in vivo. Myeloid DC phagocytosed yeasts and hyphae of Candida albicans and conidia and hyphae of Aspergillus fumigatus, both in vitro and in vivo. Phagocytosis occurred through distinct phagocytic morphologies, involving the engagement and cooperativity of distinct recognition receptors. However, receptor engagement and cooperativity were greatly modified by opsonization. The engagement of distinct receptors translated into disparate downstream signaling events, ultimately affecting cytokine production and costimulation. In vivo studies confirmed that the choice of receptor and mode of entry of fungi into DC was responsible for Th polarization and patterns of susceptibility or resistance to infection. Adoptive transfer of different types of DC activated protective, nonprotective and regulatory T cells, ultimately affecting the outcome of infection. The conclusions are that the selective exploitation of receptors and mode of entry into DC may determine the full range of hosts immune relationships with fungi and have important implications in the design of vaccine-based strategies.
Keywords: fungi, dendritic cells, fungal diseases, harmless pathogens, severe infections, immunity, phagocytic morphologies, vaccine-based strategies, receptors, cytokines
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