This blog, known as it for taking up the cause of the underdog, was fortified by reading How Fungi Have Shaped Our Understanding of Mammalian Immunology in a recent issue of Cell Host and Microbe. Not only that, but this is an exceptional piece of reviewing. It’s short (a mere three pages), fun to read, and to the point.
So, what’s the case for fungi shaping our understanding of immunology? (Note the inclusion of “mammalian” in the title. A nice departure from the customary anthropocentricity). The author, Gordon Brown of Aberdeen, guides us through both early and late developments, starting with Elie Metchnikoff, the discoverer of phagocytosis who saw yeast cells being engulfed by the water flea Daphnia, through C-type lectins, Toll and Toll-like receptors, and intracellular signal pathways.
Selected seminal discoveries from 1884 to 2006 are shown along with representative images,
including Metchnikoff (1884); zymosan engulfment by PMN (1941); properdin (1954, trimeric
structure); Aspergillus infection in TLR-deficient Drosophila (1996); fungal recognition by
Dectin-1-expressing fibroblasts (2001); collaborative signaling between TLR and CLRs (2003);
ITAM-like motifs and Syk kinase recruitment (2005); the requirement of multiple PRRs for
optimal anti-Candida responses (2006); and enhanced Candida infection in the kidneys of
CARD9−/− mice (2006). Source.
In the author’s words: …fungi and their components have long been known to influence immune function, and the contributions made from the study of fungal infections are often underappreciated. Well, here’s for trying.