Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP) develops in immunocompromised patients. Alveolar macrophages play a key role in the recognition, phagocytosis, and degradation of Pneumocystis, but their number is decreased in PcP. Our study of various inflammatory components during PcP found that myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) accumulate in the lungs of mice and rats with Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP). We hypothesized that treatment with all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA), a metabolite of vitamin A, may effectively control Pneumocystis (Pc) infection by inducing MDSCs to differentiate to AMs. In rodent models of PcP, we found that 5 weeks of ATRA treatment reduced the number of MDSCs in the lungs and increased the number of AMs which cleared Pc infection. We also found that ATRA in combination with primaquine was as effective as the combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethaxazole for treatment of PcP and completely eliminated MDSCs and Pc organisms in the lungs in two weeks. No relapse of PcP was seen after three weeks of the ATRA-primaquine combination treatment. Prolonged survival of Pc-infected animals was also achieved by this regimen. This is the very first successful development of a therapeutic regimen for PcP that combines an immune modulator with an antibiotic, enabling the hosts to effectively defend the infection. Results of our study may serve as a model for development of novel therapies for other infections with MDSC accumulation.
Dectin-1 is an important macrophage phagocytic receptor recognizing fungal beta-glucans. In this study, the mRNA levels of the Dectin-1 gene were found to be decreased by 61% in alveolar macrophages (AMs) from Pneumocystis-infected mice. The expression of Dectin-1 protein on the surface of these cells was also significantly decreased. By fluorescence in situ hybridization, mRNA expression levels of the transcription factor PU.1 were also found to be significantly reduced in AMs from Pneumocystis-infected mice. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay showed that PU.1 protein bound Dectin-1 gene promoter. With a luciferase reporter gene driven by the Dectin-1 gene promoter, the expression of the PU.1 gene in NIH 3T3 cells was found to enhance the luciferase activity in a dose-dependent manner. PU.1 expression knockdown by small interfering RNA (siRNA) caused a 63% decrease in Dectin-1 mRNA level and 40% decrease in protein level in AMs. Results of this study indicate that downregulation of PU.1 during Pneumocystis pneumonia leads to decreased expression of Dectin-1 in AMs.
Polyamine levels are greatly increased in alveolar macrophages (AMs) during Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), leading to increased production of H(2)O(2), which causes AMs to undergo apoptosis. One of the mechanisms by which polyamine levels in AMs are elevated is enhanced uptake of exogenous polyamines. In this study, the possibility of targeting polyamine uptake as a treatment for PCP was examined. Four anthracene- and one benzene-polyamine conjugates that are potential polyamine transport inhibitors, including N1-anthracen-9-ylmethyl-butane-1,4-diamine; N-(4-aminobutyl)-N-anthracen-9-ylmethylbutane-1,4-diamine; N-[4-(4-aminobutylamino)butyl]-N-anthracen-9-ylmethylbutane-1,4-diamine; N-(4-amino-butyl)-N-(10-[[4-(4-amino-butylamino)butylamino]-methyl]anthracen-9-ylmethyl)butane-1,4-diamine (44-Ant-44); and benzene-polyamine conjugate N-(4-amino-butyl)-N-(4-[[4-(4-amino-butylamino)butylamino]-methyl]benzyl)butane-1,4-diamine (44-Bn-44), were tested. Compounds 44-Ant-44 and 44-Bn-44 were found to have a very low toxicity to AMs in vitro and were evaluated for their therapeutic effect on PCP in vivo. Sprague-Dawley rats infected with P. carinii for 28 days were intranasally instilled with 50 microl of a 1 mM solution of 44-Bn-44 or 44-Ant-44 every 2 days. Twenty-one days after initiation of the treatment, three to five rats from each group were sacrificed and examined for lung pathology, organism burden, and apoptosis of AMs. Both 44-Bn-44 and 44-Ant-44 reduced organism burdens; however, only 44-Ant-44 decreased the severity of the infection with reduced lung inflammation, increased clearance of exudates, increased air space, and decreased apoptosis of AMs. 44-Ant-44 also significantly prolonged the survival of treated animals. These results suggest that polyamine uptake is a potential target for treatment of PCP.
Myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) are a heterogeneous population of hematopoietic precursors with the ability to adversely affect host immunity. They have been shown to accumulate in pathological conditions, such as cancer and some microbial diseases. In the mouse and rat models of Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP), we found a distinct population of cells with MDSC-like morphology in the bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) fluid, constituting up to 50% of the total cells in BAL fluid. These cells were not seen in the BAL fluid from normal animals or from Pneumocystis-infected animals that had been successfully treated for PcP with a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. With flow cytometry, these cells were found to express the characteristic MDSC surface markers Gr-1 and CD11b in mice or CD11bc and His48 in rats. Using reverse transcription-PCR, we demonstrated that these cells produced high levels of arginase-1 and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNA. These cells were shown to suppress CD4(+) T-cell proliferation in response to stimulation by anti-CD3 and anti-CD28 antibodies. Adoptive transfer of these cells to normal mice caused lung damage, as indicated by elevated levels of albumin and lactate dehydrogenase in the BAL fluid. These experiments provide evidence of the presence of MDSCs in the lungs during PcP. Further studies on the roles of MDSCs in PcP are warranted in order to develop treatment strategies which can reduce the number of MDSCs and the damage caused by these cells.
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