The resistance of mice to systemic infections caused by Candida albicans is associated with activated splenic macrophages. In addition, there is a correlation between natural killer (NK) cell activation and the resistance to systemic candidiasis. The present study was designed to clarify the role of NK cells in the control of splenic macrophage C. albicans phagocytosis by either depleting NK cells (anti-asialo GM(1) treatment) or maintaining them in an activated state (tilorone treatment) in both immunocompetent BALB/c mice and T-cell-deficient nude mice. The results of the in vitro phagocytosis assays were analyzed by flow cytometry and demonstrate the pivotal role of NK cells in controlling the capacity of splenic macrophages to phagocytose C. albicans. In summary, these data provide evidence that the NK cells are the main inducers of phagocytic activity of splenic macrophages and that they mediate the protection against C. albicans systemic infection.
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