A report today (June 27) in PLOS Pathogens shows how inhaled fungal spores exit the lung and trigger a fatal infection in mice.
The study solves a mystery of mycology: Why are spores of a certain fungal strain deadly while the yeast form of that same fungus is harmless?
Study leader Christina Hull, professor of biomolecular chemistry and medical microbiology and immunology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, focuses on Cryptococcus, the most deadly inhaled fungus. The short answer, she says, is that lung macrophages abandon their posts as bodyguards and begin smuggling spores into the bloodstream. Hull is a faculty member in the Integrated Program in Biochemistry (IPiB).
Normally, macrophages chew up pathogens and spit out their inert fragments. But in Cryptococcusinfections, the immune cells serve as Trojan horses, concealing a deadly cargo.
The study revealed that macrophages in mouse lungs were packed with live Cryptococcusspores. “These immune cells are acting as a vehicle to invade the rest of the body,” says first author and IPiB alumna Naomi Walsh, “with the spores hidden inside, protected from other types of immune attack.”
Read more of this press release at the link below.