Functional characterization of pro-angiogenic neutrophils

Sammanfattning: The vascular system stretches throughout the body to provide oxygen, nutrition, and to remove waste products from cell metabolism. Angiogenesis, formation of new blood vessels by sprouting from pre-existing vessels, is one of the main mechanisms involved in blood vessel formation. A successful angiogenic process is dependent on the timely involvement of several parameters; from different cell types to anti- and pro-angiogenic soluble factors.White blood cells are mostly famous for being involved in host defense against pathogens, through rapid reactions by innate immunity and delayed but specific responses through adaptive immunity. The neutrophils are innate immune cells, which are the most abundant white blood cells in the circulation. In addition to their classical roles in defense against invading microorganisms, it was recently revealed that neutrophils actively contribute to angiogenesis. Neutrophils that are involved in angiogenesis comprise a specific population, namely pro-angiogenic neutrophils (PANs), that are recruited to sites of hypoxia by using different adhesion molecules compared to when they chemotax towards infection.The present investigations focus on characterization of PANs and comparing them to the classic neutrophil population in terms of their physical features and their functions. By modifying and applying new in vivo and in vitro models of angiogenesis, interactions between growing endothelial cells and neutrophils have been further revealed, as well as neutrophil recruitment and movement towards an active site of angiogenesis. We found that the main neutrophil contribution to angiogenesis at site of islet transplantation occurs at early stages of revascularization to establish new vessels, where after the neutrophils leave the site. Neutrophil recruitment to a site of infection relies to a large extent on macrophage signals, but this was not the case when they were recruited to sites of hypoxia. PANs are a specific sub-population of neutrophils that significantly differ from the rest of the neutrophil population not only in terms of their active contribution to angiogenesis, but also in terms of their physical features and their phagocytosis abilities. The role of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR1) and also chemokine CXCL12 (CXCR4/CXCL12 signaling) in neutrophil recruitment has been further revealed by our in vitro model; neutrophil migration to sprouting endothelium is directed by CXCL12 and VEGFR1. Furthermore we found that hypoxic condition boosted pro-angiogenic activities of PANs. Moreover, how vascular permeability affects neutrophil recruitment was studied; vascular permeability regulates inflammation by increasing chemokine transport into the blood vessels and thereby promotes neutrophil recruitment.In conclusion, functional characterization of pro-angiogenic neutrophils performed in this thesis demonstrates differences beyond marker expression when compared to classic neutrophils. Moreover, intricate interactions necessary for the formation of new blood vessels between neutrophils and the growing vasculature were shown. Increased understanding of the contribution of neutrophils to blood vessel formation in hypoxic environment or/and tumors could be exploited further to develop potential therapies.

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