While plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs), a natural type I interferon (IFN)-producing cell type, are regarded as critical for innate immunity to viruses, their role in defense against fungal infections remains unknown. We examined the interactions of pDCs with hyphae of the invasive human fungal pathogen Aspergillus fumigatus. Human pDCs spread over hyphae and inhibited their growth. Antifungal activity was retained in pDC lysates, did not require direct fungal contact, and was partially reversed by zinc. Incubation with hyphae resulted in pDC cytotoxicity, partly due to fungal gliotoxin secretion. Following hyphal stimulation, pDCs released proinflammatory cytokines via a TLR9-independent mechanism. Pulmonary challenge of mice with A. fumigatus resulted in a substantial influx of pDCs into lungs, and pDC-depleted mice were hypersusceptible to invasive aspergillosis. These data demonstrate the antifungal activity of pDCs against A. fumigatus and establish their nonredundant role in host defenses against invasive aspergillosis in vivo.
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