Neutrophils play a key role in cancer biology. In contrast to circulating normal‐density neutrophils (NDN), the amount of low‐density neutrophils (LDN) significantly increases with tumor progression. The correlation between these neutrophil subpopulations and intratumoral neutrophils (TANs) is still under debate. Using 4T1 (breast) and AB12 (mesothelioma) tumor models, we aimed to elucidate the source of TANs and to assess the mechanisms driving neutrophils’ plasticity in cancer. Both NDN and LDN were found to migrate in response to CXCL1 and CXCL2 exposure, and co‐infiltrate the tumor site ex vivo and in vivo, although LDN migration into the tumor was higher than NDN. Tumor‐derived factors and chemokines, particularly CXCL1, were found to drive neutrophil phenotypical plasticity, inducing NDN to transition towards a low‐density state (LD‐NDN). LD‐NDN appeared to differ from NDN by displaying a phenotypical profile similar to LDN in terms of nuclear morphology, surface receptor markers, decreased phagocytic abilities, and increased ROS production. Interestingly, all three subpopulations displayed comparable cytotoxic abilities towards tumor cells. Our data suggest that TANs originate from both LDN and NDN, and that a portion of LDN derives from NDN undergoing phenotypical changes. NDN plasticity resulted in a change in surface marker expression and functional activity, gaining characteristics of LDN.
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© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
- CXCR2 and CXCR4
- Cancer immunology
- Cell plasticity