Vaccine Immunity to Coccidioidomycosis Occurs by Early Activation of Three Signal Pathways of T Helper Cell Response (Th1, Th2, and Th17)
We have previously reported that C57BL/6 mice vaccinated with a live, attenuated mutant of Coccidioides posadasii, referred to as the ΔT vaccine, are fully protected against pulmonary coccidioidomycosis. This model was used here to explore the nature of vaccine immunity during the initial 2-week period after intranasal challenge. Elevated neutrophil and eosinophil infiltration into the lungs of nonvaccinated mice contrasted with markedly reduced recruitment of these cells in vaccinated animals. The numbers of lung-infiltrated macrophages and dendritic cells showed a progressive increase in vaccinated mice and corresponded with reduction of the lung infection. Concentrations of selected inflammatory cytokines and chemokines were initially higher in lung homogenates of vaccinated mice but then generally decreased at 14 days postchallenge in correlation with containment of the organism and apparent dampening of the inflammation of host tissue. Profiles of cytokines detected in lung homogenates of ΔT-vaccinated mice were indicative of a mixed T helper 1 (Th1)-, Th2-, and Th17-type immune response, a conclusion which was supported by detection of lung infiltration of activated T cells with the respective CD4+ gamma interferon (IFN-γ)+, CD4+ interleukin-5 (IL-5)+, and CD4+ IL-17A+ phenotypes. While Th1 and Th2 immunity was separately dispensed of by genetic manipulation without loss of ΔT vaccine-mediated protection, loss of functional Th17 cells resulted in increased susceptibility to infection in immunized mice. Characterization of the early events of protective immunity to Coccidioides infection in vaccinated mice contributes to the identification of surrogates of immune defense and provides potential insights into the design of immunotherapeutic protocols for treatment of coccidioidomycosis.