Coccidioides species are fungal pathogens that can cause a widely varied clinical manifestation from mild pulmonary symptom to disseminated, life-threatening disease. We have previously created a subunit vaccine by encapsulating a recombinant coccidioidal Ag (rCpa1) in glucan-chitin particles (GCPs) as an adjuvant-delivery system. The GCP-rCpa1 vaccine has shown to elicit a mixed Th1 and Th17 response and confers protection against pulmonary coccidioidomycosis in mice. In this study, we further delineated the vaccine-induced protective mechanisms. Depletion of IL-17A in vaccinated C57BL/6 mice prior to challenge abrogated the protective efficacy of GCP-rCpa1 vaccine. Global transcriptome and Ingenuity Pathway Analysis of murine bone marrow-derived macrophages after exposure to this vaccine revealed the upregulation of proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-6, and IL-1β) that are associated with activation of C-type lectin receptors (CLR) Dectin-1- and Dectin-2-mediated CARD9 signaling pathway. The GCP formulation of rCpa1 bound soluble Dectin-1 and Dectin-2 and triggered ITAM signaling of corresponding CLR reporter cells. Furthermore, macrophages that were isolated from Dectin-1 -/-, Dectin-2 -/-, and CARD9 -/- mice significantly reduced production of inflammatory cytokines in response to the GCP-rCpa1 vaccine compared with those of wild-type mice. The GCP-rCpa1 vaccine had significantly reduced protective efficacy in Dectin-1 -/-, Dectin-2 -/-, and CARD9 -/- mice that showed decreased acquisition of Th cells in Coccidioides-infected lungs compared with vaccinated wild-type mice, especially Th17 cells. Collectively, we conclude that the GCP-rCpa1 vaccine stimulates a robust Th17 immunity against Coccidioides infection through activation of the CARD9-associated Dectin-1 and Dectin-2 signal pathways.
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