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Previous studies in our laboratory and others have demonstrated that T and/or NK cells can directly bind to and inhibit the growth of the medically important fungal pathogens Cryptococcus neoformans and Candida albicans by apparently non-major histocompatibility complex-restricted mechanisms. Here, we examined whether this direct interaction between lymphocytes and fungi also results in cytokine gene expression and release. Nonadherent lymphocytes (NAL), isolated from human peripheral blood mononuclear cells by depletion of cells adherent to plastic and nylon wool, released gamma interferon (IFN-gamma), but not interleukin-4 (IL-4) and IL-10, following stimulation with C. neoformans yeast cells and C. albicans yeast cells, hyphae, and supernatants. The fungal stimuli also induced IFN-gamma mRNA, with peak gene expression seen at or after 18 h. IFN-gamma release was still seen even when either NK cells or T lymphocytes were depleted by negative selection, suggesting that both cell types can be stimulated by fungi to produce IFN-gamma. Release of IFN-gamma from fungus-stimulated NAL occurred in the absence of an intact complement system and was not especially enhanced by culture with IL-2 or IL-12. These data expand the mechanisms by which the direct interaction of NAL with fungal targets can lead to immune activation. Moreover, to our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of direct stimulation of T-cell cytokine release by microbial pathogens.