The chemokine CX3CL1/fractalkine regulates immunopathogenesis during fungal-associated allergic airway inflammation

Matthew S. Godwin, Maryjane Jones, Jonathan P. Blackburn, Zhihong Yu, Sadis Matalon, Annette T. Hastie, Deborah A. Meyers, Chad Steele

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Individuals that present with difficult-to-control asthma and sensitivity to one or more fungal species are categorized as a subset of severe asthma patients belonging to a group herein referred to as severe asthma with fungal sensitization (SAFS). We have previously reported the identification of numerous cytokines and chemokines that were elevated in human asthmatics that were sensitized to fungi vs. nonfungal sensitized asthmatics. Here, we show that the unique chemokine CX3CL1 (fractalkine) is elevated in both bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and sputum from human asthmatics sensitized to fungi, implicating an association with CX3CL1 in fungal asthma severity. In an experimental model of fungal-associated allergic airway inflammation, we demonstrate that the absence of CX3CR1 signaling unexpectedly resulted in a profound impairment in lung function. Histological assessment of lung tissue revealed an unrestricted inflammatory response that was subsequently characterized by enhanced levels of neutrophils, eosinophils, and inflammatory monocytes. Neutrophilic inflammation correlated with elevated IL-17A, proinflammatory cytokines (TNF-α, IL-1α, and IL-1β), neutrophil survival factors (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor), and neutrophiltargeting chemokines (CCL3 and CCL4). Eosinophilia correlated with elevated type 2 responses (IL-5 and IL-13) whereas inflammatory monocyte levels correlated with elevated type 1 responses (IFN-c and CXCL9) and survival factors (macrophage colonystimulating factor). Despite enhanced inflammatory responses, the immunoregulatory cytokine IL-10 and the natural inhibitor of IL-1 signaling, IL-1RA, were significantly elevated rather than impaired. Regulatory T-cell levels were unchanged, as were levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokines IL-35 and IL-38. Taken together, the CX3CL1/CX3CR1 axis preserves lung function during fungalassociated allergic airway inflammation through a nonclassical immunoregulatory mechanism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)L393-L404
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Asthma
  • Fungal
  • Inflammation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)
  • Cell Biology


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