Lactoferrin : an anti‐inflammatory molecule released by apoptotic cells to inhibit granulocyte migration
Apoptosis is a physiological form of cell death. It is a highly evolutionarily conserved process that is non-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory in nature. This anti-inflammatory nature of apoptosis is evident by the fact that neutrophils are histologically absent from sites where homeostatic apoptosis rates are high. The rapid phagocytosis of apoptotic cells as a means to prevent the release of noxious inflammatory compounds also accounts for the anti-inflammatory environment of such sites. However, the mechanisms that enable mononuclear phagocytes to migrate to sites where homeostatic apoptosis rates are high, and not granulocytes, the professional phagocytes that accumulate at sites of inflammation, have not been determined yet. Using Burkitt’s lymphoma (BL) as a model of apoptosis, the aim of this thesis was to identify the regulatory mechanisms or factors underlying the non-phlogistic features of sites where homeostatic apoptosis rates are high and in particular, those preventing the recruitment of neutrophils - a major granulocyte subclass to these sites. BL is a highly aggressive B cell lymphoma that is mainly characterised by a high rate of apoptosis. By carrying out a series of in vitro chemotaxis assays and biochemical approaches, it was found in this thesis that BL cells actively inhibit neutrophil migration by releasing factors that were identified to be lactoferrin, a 80 kDa iron-binding glycoprotein with anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It was further demonstrated that lactoferrin selectively inhibited migration of granulocytes (both neutrophils and eosinophils) but not mononuclear phagocytes and this effect was irrespective of its iron saturation status and the chemoattractant used. Also, lactoferrin potently inhibited neutrophil migration, as assessed by thioglycollate-induced in vivo model of mouse peritonitis. This anti-inflammatory function of lactoferrin was attributed to its effect on granulocyte signalling pathways that regulate cell adhesion and motility. Finally, it was demonstrated that in cell types of diverse lineages, induction of apoptosis results in de novo synthesis and secretion of lactoferrin. In subsequent proliferation assays determining the in vitro growth of a number of BL cell types, it was demonstrated that lactoferrin is an essential component of BL cells and promotes their proliferation, as its antibody-mediated neutralisation or shRNA-mediated expression knockdown, reduced BL cell growth. Together, the results of this thesis identified lactoferrin as one of the few characterised antiinflammatory components of the apoptosis milieu that negatively regulate granulocyte migration. This effect may provide opportunities for broad therapeutic interventions concerning the use of lactoferrin in chronic inflammatory conditions characterised by aberrant neutrophil influx as well as atopic allergic disorders, such as asthma. Moreover, based on the tumour-supporting role of lactoferrin described in this study, targeting its expression in tumours could lead to tumour regression and thus, be a promising therapeutic molecule in tumour immunotherapy.