Ph.D., Pharmacology, National Taiwan University;
Instructor in Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School;
Research Associate in Immunology, Boston Children's Hospital
Aspergillus fumigatusis a saprophytic fungus that is ubiquitous in the environment and commonly associated with allergic sensitization and severe asthma in humans. Although A. fumigatus is recognized by multiple microbial pattern recognition receptors, we identified and synthesized an A. fumigatus glycosphingolipid, asperamide B, that directly activated invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells in vitro in a CD1d-restricted, MyD88- and dectin-1-independent fashion. Moreover, asperamide B, when loaded into CD1d, directly stained, and was sufficient to activate, iNKT cells. In vivo, asperamide B rapidly induced airway hyperreactivity, a cardinal feature of asthma, by activating pulmonary iNKT cells in an IL-33-ST2-dependent fashion. Asperamide B is thus the first fungal glycolipid found to directly activate iNKT cells. These results extend the range of microorganisms that can be directly detected by iNKT cells to the Kingdom of Fungi, and may explain the effectiveness of A. fumigatus in causing severe chronic respiratory diseases in humans.