Background: S100A9 has been shown to be important for the function of so called Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells (MDSC). Cells with a similar phenotype are also involved in pro-inflammatory processes, and we therefore wanted to investigate the gene expression and function of these cells in animals that were either subjected to chronic inflammation, or inoculated with tumors.
Methods: CD11b(+)Ly6C(++) and Ly6G(+) cells were isolated from spleen, tumor tissue or inflammatory granulomas. S100A9, Arginase 1 and iNOS gene expression in the various CD11b(+) cell populations was analyzed using Q-PCR. The suppressive activity of the CD11b(+) cell populations from different donors was studied in co-culture experiments.
Results: S100A9 was shown to be expressed mainly in splenic CD11b(+)Ly6C(+)G(+) cells both at the RNA and protein level. Arginase I and iNOS expression could be detected in both CD11b(+)Ly6C(+)Ly6G(+) and CD11b(+)Ly6C(+)G(-)/C(++)G(-) derived from tumors or a site of chronic inflammation, but was very low in the same cell populations isolated from the spleen. CD11b(+) cells isolated from mice with peritoneal chronic inflammation were able to stimulate T lymphocytes, while CD11b+ cells from mice with peritoneal tumors suppressed T cell growth.
Conclusion: An identical CD11b(+)Ly6C(++)G(-) cell population appears to have the ability to adopt immune stimulatory or immune suppressive functions dependent on the presence of a local inflammatory or tumor microenvironment. Thus, there is a functional plasticity in the CD11b(+)Ly6C(++)G(-) cell population that cannot be distinguished with the current molecular markers.