An impaired neutrophil response to pathogenic fungi puts patients at risk for fungal infections with a high risk of morbidity and mortality. Acquired neutrophil dysfunction in the setting of iatrogenic immune modulators can include the inhibition of critical kinases such as spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk). In this study, we used an established system of conditionally immortalized mouse neutrophil progenitors to investigate the ability to augment Syk-deficient neutrophil function against Candida albicans with TLR agonist signaling. LPS, a known immunomodulatory molecule derived from Gram-negative bacteria, was capable of rescuing effector functions of Syk-deficient neutrophils, which are known to have poor fungicidal activity against Candida species. LPS priming of Syk-deficient mouse neutrophils demonstrates partial rescue of fungicidal activity, including phagocytosis, degranulation, and neutrophil swarming, but not reactive oxygen species production against C. albicans, in part due to c-Fos activation. Similarly, LPS priming of human neutrophils rescues fungicidal activity in the presence of pharmacologic inhibition of Syk and Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk), both critical kinases in the innate immune response to fungi. In vivo, neutropenic mice were reconstituted with wild-type or Syk-deficient neutrophils and challenged i.p. with C. albicans. In this model, LPS improved wild-type neutrophil homing to the fungal challenge, although Syk-deficient neutrophils did not persist in vivo, speaking to its crucial role on in vivo persistence. Taken together, we identify TLR signaling as an alternate activation pathway capable of partially restoring neutrophil effector function against Candida in a Syk-independent manner.
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