Link between allergic asthma and airway mucosal infection suggested by proteinase-secreting household fungi

Mucosal Immunol. 2009 Nov;2(6):504-17. doi: 10.1038/mi.2009.102. Epub 2009 Aug 26.


Active fungal proteinases are powerful allergens that induce experimental allergic lung disease strongly resembling atopic asthma, but the precise relationship between proteinases and asthma remains unknown. Here, we analyzed dust collected from the homes of asthmatic children for the presence and sources of active proteinases to further explore the relationship between active proteinases, atopy, and asthma. Active proteinases were present in all houses and many were derived from fungi, especially Aspergillus niger. Proteinase-active dust extracts were alone insufficient to initiate asthma-like disease in mice, but conidia of A. niger readily established a contained airway mucosal infection, allergic lung disease, and atopy to an innocuous bystander antigen. Proteinase produced by A. niger enhanced fungal clearance from lung and was required for robust allergic disease. Interleukin 13 (IL-13) and IL-5 were required for optimal clearance of lung fungal infection and eosinophils showed potent anti-fungal activity in vitro. Thus, asthma and atopy may both represent a protective response against contained airway infection due to ubiquitous proteinase-producing fungi.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aspergillus niger / immunology
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / microbiology*
  • Child
  • Dust / immunology*
  • Fungal Proteins / adverse effects
  • Fungal Proteins / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-13 / immunology
  • Interleukin-5 / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mycoses / immunology
  • Peptide Hydrolases / immunology*
  • Respiratory Mucosa / immunology
  • Respiratory Mucosa / microbiology*
  • Spores, Fungal / immunology


  • Dust
  • Fungal Proteins
  • Interleukin-13
  • Interleukin-5
  • Peptide Hydrolases