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Title: Measurement and mechanisms of complement-induced neutrophil dysfunction
Author: Wood, Alexander James Telfer
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 4147
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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Critical illness is an aetiologically and clinically heterogeneous syndrome that is characterised by organ failure and immune dysfunction. Mortality in critically ill patients is driven by inflammation-associated organ damage and a profound vulnerability to nosocomial infection. Both factors are influenced by the complement protein C5a, released by unbridled activation of the complement system during critical illness. C5a suppresses antimicrobial functions of key immune cells, in particular the neutrophil, and this suppression has been shown to be associated with poorer outcomes amongst critically ill adults. The intracellular signalling pathways which mediate C5a-induced neutrophil dysfunction are incompletely understood, and scalable tools with which to assess immune cell dysfunction in patients are lacking. This thesis aimed to develop tools with which to assess neutrophil function and delineate intracellular signalling pathways driving C5a-induced impairment. Neutrophils were isolated from healthy volunteer blood and functions (priming, phagocytosis and reactive oxygen species production) were assessed using light microscopy, confocal microscopy and flow cytometry. A new assay was developed using an Attune Nxt™ acoustic focusing cytometer (Life Technologies) which allowed the rapid assessment of multiple neutrophil functions in small samples of unlysed, minimally-manipulated human whole blood. Complete proteomes and phosphoproteomes of phagocytosing neutrophils were obtained from four healthy donors pre-treated with C5a or vehicle control. Several key insights were gained from this work and are summarised here. Firstly, C5a was found to induce a prolonged (greater than seven hours) impairment of neutrophil phagocytosis. This defect was found to be preventable by previous or concurrent phagocytosis, indicating common signalling mechanisms. Secondly, a novel assay was developed which allows the rapid assessment of multiple neutrophil functions in less than 2 mL of whole blood, and this assay can feasibly be applied in clinical settings. Thirdly, cell-surface expression of the C5a receptor was found to be markedly decreased during phagocytosis, and this decrease was not mediated by protease activity. Finally, unbiased proteomics quantified 4859 proteins and 2712 phosphoproteins respectively. This quantification is the deepest profile of the human neutrophil proteome published to date, and has revealed novel insights into the mechanisms of C5a-induced neutrophil dysfunction and phagocytosis.
Supervisor: Conway Morris, Andrew ; Chilvers, Edwin ; Menon, David Sponsor: Gates Cambridge Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Complement ; immunosuppression ; critical illness ; sepsis ; neutrophil ; innate immunity ; phosphoproteomics ; proteomics ; c5a ; anaphylatoxin