Skin infections are eliminated by cooperation of the fibrinolytic and innate immune systems
Nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) is activated in innate immune cells downstream of pattern recognition receptors, but little is known about NFAT’s functions in innate immunity compared with adaptive immunity. We show that early activation of NFAT balances the two major phases of the innate response to Candida albicans skin infections: the protective containment (abscess) and the elimination (expulsion) phases. During the early containment phase, transforming growth factor–β (TGF-β) induces the deposit of collagen around newly recruited polymorphonuclear cells to prevent microbial spreading. During the elimination phase, interferon-γ (IFN-γ) blocks differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts by antagonizing TGF-β signaling. IFN-γ also induces the formation of plasmin that, in turn, promotes abscess capsule digestion and skin ulceration for microbial discharge. NFAT controls innate IFN-γ production and microbial expulsion. This cross-talk between the innate immune and the fibrinolytic systems also occurs during infection with Staphylococcus aureus and is a protective response to minimize tissue damage and optimize pathogen elimination.