Patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) typically suffer from frequent and severe bacterial infections. Although it is well known that neutrophils are critical innate immune cells facilitating the early defense, the underlying phenotypical and functional changes in neutrophils during CLL remain largely elusive. Using a murine adoptive transfer model of CLL, we demonstrate aggravated bacterial burden in CLL-bearing mice upon a urinary tract infection with uropathogenic Escherichia coli. Bioinformatic analyses of the neutrophil proteome revealed increased expression of proteins associated with interferon signaling and decreased protein expression associated with granule composition and neutrophil migration. Functional experiments validated these findings by showing reduced levels of myeloperoxidase and acidification of neutrophil granules after ex vivo phagocytosis of bacteria. Pathway enrichment analysis indicated decreased expression of molecules critical for neutrophil recruitment, and migration of neutrophils into the infected urinary bladder was significantly reduced. These altered migratory properties of neutrophils were also associated with reduced expression of CD62L and CXCR4 and correlated with an increased incidence of infections in patients with CLL. In conclusion, this study describes a molecular signature of neutrophils through proteomic, bioinformatic, and functional analyses that are linked to a reduced migratory ability, potentially leading to increased bacterial infections in patients with CLL.
© 2021 by The American Society of Hematology.