Wnt-β-Catenin Signaling in Human Dendritic Cells Mediates Regulatory T-Cell Responses to Fungi via the PD-L1 Pathway

mBio. 2021 Nov 16:e0282421. doi: 10.1128/mBio.02824-21. Online ahead of print.


The signaling pathways activated following interaction between dendritic cells (DCs) and a pathogen determine the polarization of effector T-cell and regulatory T-cell (Treg) responses to the infection. Several recent studies, mostly in the context of bacterial infections, have shown that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway plays a major role in imparting tolerogenic features in DCs and in promotion of Treg responses. However, the significance of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway’s involvement in regulating the immune response to the fungal species is not known. Using Aspergillus fumigatus, a ubiquitous airborne opportunistic fungal species, we show here that fungi activate the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in human DCs and are critical for mediating the immunosuppressive Treg responses. Pharmacological inhibition of this pathway in DCs led to inhibition of maturation-associated molecules and interleukin 10 (IL-10) secretion without affecting the majority of the inflammatory cytokines. Furthermore, blockade of Wnt signaling in DCs suppressed DC-mediated Treg responses in CD4+ T cells and downregulated both tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and IL-10 responses in CD8+ T cells. Mechanistically, induction of β-catenin pathway by A. fumigatus required C-type lectin receptors and promoted Treg polarization via the induction of programmed death-ligand 1 on DCs. Further investigation on the identity of fungal molecular patterns has revealed that the cell wall polysaccharides β-(1, 3)-glucan and α-(1, 3)-glucan, but not chitin, possess the capacity to activate the β-catenin pathway. Our data suggest that the Wnt/β-catenin pathway is a potential therapeutic target to selectively suppress the Treg response and to sustain the protective Th1 response in the context of invasive aspergillosis caused by A. fumigatus. IMPORTANCE The balance between effector CD4+ T-cell and immunosuppressive regulatory T-cell (Treg) responses determines the outcome of an infectious disease. The signaling pathways that regulate human CD4+ T-effector versus Treg responses to the fungi are not completely understood. By using Aspergillus fumigatus, a ubiquitous opportunistic fungal species, we show that fungi activate the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in human dendritic cells (DCs) that promotes Treg responses via induction of immune checkpoint molecule programmed death ligand 1 on DCs. Blockade of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in DCs led to the selective inhibition of Treg without affecting the Th1 response. Dissection of the identity of A. fumigatus pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs) revealed that cell wall polysaccharides exhibit selectivity in their capacity to activate the β-catenin pathway in DCs. Our data thus provide a pointer that Wnt/β-catenin pathway represents potential therapeutic target to selectively suppress Treg responses and to sustain protective a Th1 response against invasive fungal diseases.

PMID:34781737 | DOI:10.1128/mBio.02824-21

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