Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

β1 Integrins Are Required To Mediate NK Cell Killing of Cryptococcus neoformans.

PMID 30201811


Cryptococcus neoformans is a fungal pathogen that causes fatal meningitis and pneumonia. During host defense to Cryptococcus, NK cells directly recognize and kill C. neoformans using cytolytic degranulation analogous to killing of tumor cells. This fungal killing requires independent activation of Src family kinase (SFK) and Rac1-mediated pathways. Recognition of C. neoformans requires the natural cytotoxicity receptor, NKp30; however, it is not known whether NKp30 activates both signal transduction pathways or whether a second receptor is involved in activation of one of the pathways. We used primary human NK cells and a human NK cell line and found that NKp30 activates SFK → PI3K but not Rac1 cytotoxic signaling, which led to a search for the receptor leading to Rac1 activation. We found that NK cells require integrin-linked kinase (ILK) to activate Rac1 for effective fungal killing. This observation led to our identification of β1 integrin as an essential anticryptococcal receptor. These findings demonstrate that multiple receptors, including β1 integrins and NKp30 and their proximal signaling pathways, are required for recognition of Cryptococcus, which activates a central cytolytic antimicrobial pathway leading to fungal killing.