Thrombomodulin expressing monocytes are associated with low risk features in myelodysplastic syndromes and dampen excessive immune activation

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The bone marrow of patients with low-risk myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) is often an inflammatory environment and associated with an active cellular immune response. An active immune response generally contributes to antitumor responses and may prevent disease progression. However, chronic immune stimulation can also induce cell stress, DNA damage and contribute to the pathogenesis of MDS. The protective mechanisms against excessive immune activation are therefore an important aspect of the pathophysiology of MDS and characterizing them may help us to better understand the fine balance between protective and destabilizing inflammation in lower-risk disease. In this study we investigated the role of thrombomodulin (CD141/BDCA-3) expression, a molecule with anti-inflammatory properties, on monocytes in the bone marrow and peripheral blood of MDS patients in different risk groups. Patient-derived classical monocytes showed high expression levels of thrombomodulin, whereas monocytes from healthy donors hardly expressed any thrombomodulin. The presence of thrombomodulin on monocytes from MDS patients correlated with lower-risk disease groups and better overall and leukemia-free survival. Using multidimensional mass cytometry, in an in-vitro setting, we showed that thrombomodulin-positive monocytes could polarize naïve T cells toward cell clusters which are closer to T helper type 2 and T regulatory cell phenotypes and less likely to contribute to effective immune surveillance. In conclusion, the expression of thrombomodulin on classical monocytes is a favorable and early prognostic marker in patients with low-risk MDS and may represent a new mechanism in the protection against disproportionate immune activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)961-970
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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