Authors: Luvanda M, Posch W, Vosper J, Zaderer V, Noureen A, Lass-Florl C

PMID: 33498318 PMCID: PMC7909285 DOI: 10.3390/jof7020070


Since long-term corticosteroid treatment is associated with emerging opportunistic fungal infections causing high morbidity and mortality in immune-suppressed individuals, here we characterized the impact of dexamethasone (Dex) treatment on Aspergillus fumigatus-related immune modulation. We found by high content screening and flow cytometric analyses that during monocyte-to-macrophage differentiation, as little as 0.1 µg/mL Dex resulted in a shift in macrophage polarization from M1 to M2-like macrophages. This macrophage repolarization mediated via Dex was characterized by significant upregulation of the M2 marker CD163 and downmodulation of M1 markers CD40 and CD86 as well as changes in phenotypic properties and adherence. These Dex-mediated phenotypic alterations were furthermore associated with a metabolic switch in macrophages orchestrated via PKM2. Such treated macrophages lost their ability to prevent Aspergillus fumigatus germination, which was correlated with accelerated fungal growth, destruction of macrophages, and induction of an anti-inflammatory cytokine profile. Taken together, repolarization of macrophages following corticosteroid treatment and concomitant switch to an anti-inflammatory phenotype might play a prominent role in triggering invasive aspergillosis (IA) due to suppression of innate immunological responses necessary to combat extensive fungal outgrowth.

Keywords: Aspergillus fumigatus; PKM2; dexamethasone; glucocorticoids; glycolytic pathway; macrophages.