Rohwedder I, Wackerbarth LM, Heinig K, Ballweg A, Altstätter J, Ripphahn M, Nussbaum C, Salvermoser M, Bierschenk S, Straub T, Gunzer M, Schmidt-Supprian M, Kolben T, Schulz C, Ma A, Walzog B, Heinig M, Sperandio M.

ABSTRACT: Newborns are at high risk of developing neonatal sepsis, particularly if born prematurely. This has been linked to divergent requirements the immune system has to fulfill during intrauterine compared with extrauterine life. By transcriptomic analysis of fetal and adult neutrophils, we shed new light on the molecular mechanisms of neutrophil maturation and functional adaption during fetal ontogeny. We identified an accumulation of differentially regulated genes within the noncanonical NF-κB signaling pathway accompanied by constitutive nuclear localization of RelB and increased surface expression of TNF receptor type II in fetal neutrophils, as well as elevated levels of lymphotoxin α in fetal serum. Furthermore, we found strong upregulation of the negative inflammatory regulator A20 (Tnfaip3) in fetal neutrophils, which was accompanied by pronounced downregulation of the canonical NF-κB pathway. Functionally, overexpressing A20 in Hoxb8 cells led to reduced adhesion of these neutrophil-like cells in a flow chamber system. Conversely, mice with a neutrophil-specific A20 deletion displayed increased inflammation in vivo. Taken together, we have uncovered constitutive activation of the noncanonical NF-κB pathway with concomitant upregulation of A20 in fetal neutrophils. This offers perfect adaption of neutrophil function during intrauterine fetal life but also restricts appropriate immune responses particularly in prematurely born infants.