Background: Aspergillus and Mucorales species cause severe infections in patients after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). Induction of antifungal CD4(+) T-helper type 1 (Th1) immunity is an appealing strategy to combat these infections. Immunotherapeutic approaches are so far limited because of a lack of antigens inducing protective T cells, their elaborate production, and the need of targeting a broad spectrum of pathogenic fungi.
Methods: We examined the response to different Aspergillus fumigatus proteins in healthy individuals and patients after HSCT and compared rapid selection protocols for fungus-specific T cells based on CD137 or CD154 expression.
Results: The A. fumigatus proteins Crf1, Gel1, and Pmp20 induced strong Th1 responses in healthy individuals. T cells specific for these antigens expanded in patients with active invasive aspergillosis, indicating their contribution to infection control. Th1 cells specific for the 3 proteins can be selected with similar specificity within 24 hours, based on CD137 or CD154 expression. These cells recognize naturally processed A. fumigatus and the multispecific T-cell lines, directed against all 3 proteins, especially those selected by CD154, additionally cross-react to different Aspergillus and Mucorales species.
Conclusions: These findings may form the basis for adoptive T-cell transfer for prophylaxis or treatment in patients with these devastating infections.
Keywords: Aspergillus; CD137 and CD154 expression; T-cell therapy; fungal infection; multispecific T cells.
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