The expression of cell-surface adhesion proteins and the release of extracellular-matrix degradative enzymes constitute crucial processes for the attachment of neutrophils to the endothelium and for the subsequent extravasation of these cells through the endothelial layer. We have analysed in resting human neutrophils the subcellular localization of heparanase, a heparan-sulphate-degrading endoglycosidase that can degrade basement-membrane components, thereby facilitating neutrophil passage into the tissue during an inflammatory reaction. By subcellular fractionation of postnuclear supernatants from resting human neutrophils on continuous sucrose gradients, we have found that heparanase activity was mainly located in gelatinase-containing tertiary granules. Using a specific antibody, the 96-kDa heparanase protein was further located in the gelatinase-rich subcellular fractions. Following immunoblotting and immunoprecipitation analysis in the distinct subcellular fractions, we also found co-localization of heparanase and Mo1 (CD11b/CD18), a leucocyte integrin involved in the attachment of neutrophils to the endothelium, in the fractions enriched in gelatinase-containing tertiary granules. Treatment of human neutrophils with tumour necrosis factor or granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor induced an increase in the CD11b/CD18 cell-surface expression, as well as the release of both gelatinase (matrix metalloproteinase-9) and heparanase, but not of other granule markers, indicating a major co-localization of gelatinase, heparanase and CD11b/CD18 in the same organelle. Furthermore, confocal laser scanning microscopy using specific antibodies against gelatinase and heparanase revealed a major co-localization of both enzymes in intracellular cytoplasmic granules. The major localization of heparanase and CD11b/CD18 in the gelatinase-containing tertiary granule supports the notion that mobilization of this organelle can regulate extravasation of human neutrophils.

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