Therapeutic expansion of CD4+FoxP3+ regulatory T cells limits allergic airway inflammation during pulmonary fungal infection

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Allergic asthma can be frequently caused and exacerbated by sensitization to ubiquitous fungal allergens associated with pulmonary mucus production, airway hyperresponsiveness and bronchial constriction, resulting in a complex disease that is often difficult to treat. Fungal infections are frequently complicated by the development of a type 2 immune response that prevents successful elimination of the fungal pathogen. Furthermore, production of type 2 cytokines triggers allergic airway inflammation. Following intranasal infection of BALB/c mice with the fungus Cryptococcus neoformans, we recently described a more pronounced type 2 immune response in the absence of regulatory T (Treg) cells. To determine whether Treg cell expansion is able to suppress type 2-related fungal allergic inflammation, we increased Treg cell numbers during pulmonary C. neoformans infection by administration of an interleukin (IL)-2/anti-IL-2 complex. Expansion of Treg cells resulted in reduced immunoglobulin E production and decreased allergic airway inflammation including reduced production of pulmonary mucus and type 2 cytokines as well as production of immunosuppressive cytokines such as IL-10 and transforming growth factor-β1. From our data we conclude that Treg cells and/or their suppressive mediators represent potential targets for therapeutic intervention during allergic fungal airway disease.

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