The mechanisms by which macrophages kill ingested microorganisms were explored using Candida albicans and Candida parapsilosis. The results indicate that efficient macrophage candidacidal activity depends upon the generation of oxygen metabolites by the phagocytic cell: (a) peritoneal macrophages from mice infected with bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) or injected intraperitoneally with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) released more superoxide anion (0(2)(-)) during phagocytosis of candida and killed candida better than did resident macrophages; (b) cells of the macrophage-like line J774.1, which released negligible amounts of O(2)(-), could ingest the candida normally but not kill them; (c) killing of candida by resident, LPS- elicited, and BCG-activated macrophages was inhibited by agents that scavenge O(2)(-), hydrogen peroxide (H(2)0(2)), hydroxyl radical (x OH), and singlet oxygen; and (d) all three macrophage types killed C. parapsilosis more effectively than C. albicans, and (7. parapsilosis stimulated a more prompt and vigorous burst of macrophage oxygen consumption and 0(2)(-) release than did C. albicans. Macrophages ingested C. parapsilosis slightly more quickly than C. albicans, but phagocytosis of both strains was equivalent by 60 min of incubation. Although C. albicans contained higher concentrations of the oxygen-metabolite scavengers superoxide dismutase and catalase, neither fungal species scavenged 0(2)(-) or H(2)0(2) effectively; and C. albicans was killed more easily than C. parapsilosis by a xanthine oxidase system that generates primarily H(2)O(2) at pH 7, or 0(2)(-) and x OH at pH 10. Thus, the decreased killing of C. albicans appears to result primarily from the capability of this species to elicit less vigorous stimulation of macrophage oxidative metabolism. This capability may have general relevance to the pathogenicity of microorganisms.

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