Invasive aspergillosis is characterized by hyphal invasion of the blood vessels, which contributes to the pathogenesis of this disease. During this angioinvasion, Aspergillus fumigatus interacts with the endothelial cell lining of the blood vessels. We investigated the response of vascular endothelial cells to A. fumigatus infection in vitro and in mouse models of invasive pulmonary aspergillosis. Infection with hyphae, but not with conidia, stimulated endothelial cells to synthesize E-selectin, vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (VCAM-1), interleukin 8, and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) in vitro. Killed hyphae induced approximately 40% less stimulation than did live hyphae. Endothelial cell stimulation required contact between the hyphae and endothelial cells but not endocytosis of the organisms. Studies with ΔgliP and ΔstuA null mutants of A. fumigatus indicated that the extent of endothelial cell stimulation was not influenced by gliotoxin or other StuA-dependent factors synthesized by A. fumigatus. In neutropenic mice infected with wild-type A. fumigatus, increased pulmonary expression of E-selectin, cytokine-induced neutrophil chemoattractant (KC), and TNF-α occurred only when neutropenia had resolved. In nonneutropenic mice immunosuppressed with corticosteroids, A. fumigatus stimulated earlier pulmonary expression of E-selectin, VCAM-1, and KC, while expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 and TNF-α was suppressed. In both mouse models, expression of E-selectin and KC was associated with high pulmonary fungal burden, angioinvasion, and neutrophil adherence to endothelial cells. Therefore, the expression of leukocyte adhesion molecules and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines by endothelial cells in response to A. fumigatus could enhance the host defense against this organism by contributing to the recruitment of activated leukocytes to sites of angioinvasion
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