Aspergillus fumigatus is associated with both invasive and allergic pulmonary diseases, in different hosts. The organism is inhaled as a spore, which, if not cleared from the airway, germinates into hyphal morphotypes that are responsible for tissue invasion and resultant inflammation. Hyphae secrete multiple products that function as antigens, evoking both a protective (TH1–TH17) and destructive allergic (TH2) immunity. How Aspergillus allergens (Asp f proteins) participate in the development of allergic sensitization is unknown.
To determine whether Asp f proteins are strictly associated with TH2 responses, or represent soluble hyphal products recognized by healthy hosts, human T cell responses to crude and recombinant products were characterized by ELISPOT. While responses (number of spots producing IFN-γ, IL-4 or IL-17) to crude hyphal antigen preparations were weak, responses to recombinant Asp f proteins were higher. Recombinant allergens stimulated cells to produce IFN-γ more so than IL-4 or IL-17. Volunteers exhibited a diverse CD4+ and CD8+ T cell antigen recognition profile, with prominent CD4 TH1-responses to Asp f3 (a putative peroxismal membrane protein), Asp f9/16 (cell wall glucanase), Asp f11 (cyclophilin type peptidyl-prolyl isomerase) and Asp f22 (enolase). Strong IFN-γ responses were reproduced in most subjects tested over 6 month intervals.
Products secreted after conidial germination into hyphae are differentially recognized by protective T cells in healthy, non-atopic individuals. Defining the specificity of the human T cell repertoire, and identifying factors that govern early responses may allow for development of novel diagnostics and therapeutics for both invasive and allergic Aspergillus diseases.