Cryptococcus Neoformans Interactions with Surfactant Proteins: Implications for Innate Pulmonary Immunity
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Concurrent with the global escalation of the AIDS pandemic, cryptococcal infections are increasing and are of significant medical importance. Although improvements in antifungal therapy have advanced the treatment of cryptococcosis, the mortality rate is approximately 12% in medically advanced countries, and approaches 50% in less developed regions. Additionally, <italic>C. neoformans</italic> can cause infection in seemingly healthy individuals, elevating its status as a primary human pathogen. Although numerous studies have examined virulence properties, less is understood regarding host immune factors in the lungs during early stages of fungal infection. In the present thesis studies, I examined the roles played by pulmonary surfactant proteins in response to <italic>C. neoformans in vitro</italic> and <italic>in vivo</italic>. We demonstrate that SP-D, but not SP-A, binds to the yeast and increases phagocytosis of poorly encapsulated yeast cells by macrophages, yet concomitantly protects the pathogenic microbes from macrophage-mediated defense mechanisms. Furthermore, we show that SP-D functions as risk factor in vivo</italic> by protecting the yeast cells against oxidant species and thus facilitating disease progression. The results of these studies provide a new paradigm on the role played by surfactant protein D during host responses to <italic>C. neoformans</italic> and, consequently, impart insight into potential future treatment strategies for cryptococcosis.
Health Sciences, Immunology
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