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Cell Death Differ. 2000 May;7(5):493-503.

Molecular characterization of the surface of apoptotic neutrophils: implications for functional downregulation and recognition by phagocytes.

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  • 1The Rayne Laboratory, Respiratory Medicine Unit, University of Edinburgh Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG, UK.


We have used a panel of monoclonal antibodies and lectins to examine the profile of surface molecule expression on human neutrophils that have undergone spontaneous apoptosis during in vitro culture. Neutrophil apoptosis was found to be accompanied by down-regulation of the immunoglobulin superfamily members PECAM-1 (CD31), ICAM-3 (CD50), CD66acde, and CD66b and the integrin-associated proteins CD63 and urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (CD87) that may alter the potential for adhesive interactions. Cellular interactions may be further influenced by the reduction of the expression of surface carbohydrate moieties, including sialic acid. Reduced expression of FcgammaRII (CD32), complement receptor type 1 (CD35) and receptors for pro-inflammatory mediators C5a (CD88) and TNFalpha (CD120b) associated with apoptosis might limit neutrophil responsiveness to stimuli that trigger degranulation responses. Although many of the receptors we have examined are expressed at reduced levels on apoptotic neutrophils, we found that there was differential loss of certain receptors (e.g. CD16, CD15 and CD120b) and increased expression of aminopeptidase-N (CD13). Together with our previous data showing that expression of certain molecules e.g. LFA-3 (CD58) is not altered during neutrophil apoptosis, these data are suggestive of specific changes in receptor mobilisation and shedding associated with apoptosis. Although reduced expression of CD63 (azurophilic granules) and CR1 (specific granules) indicates that granule mobilisation does not accompany apoptosis, a monoclonal antibody (BOB78), that recognises a 90 kDa antigen localised in intracellular granules, defines a subpopulation of apoptotic neutrophils that exhibit nuclear degradation yet retain intact plasma membranes. BOB78 positive neutrophils were found to bind biotinylated thrombospondin, suggesting that this mAb defines surface molecular changes associated with exposure of thrombospondin binding moieties.

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