The cellular receptor for urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPAR) binds pro-urokinase (pro-uPA) and facilitates its conversion to enzymatically active urokinase (uPA). uPA in turn activates surface-bound plasminogen to plasmin, a process of presumed importance for a number of biologic processes including cell migration and resolution of thrombi. We have previously shown that uPAR is expressed on the plasma membrane of circulating neutrophils, and we now report that stimulation with phorbol myristate acetate (PMA), FMLP, or tumor necrosis factor-alpha results in a rapid increase in the expression of uPAR. This process is accompanied by an increased cell-associated plasminogen activation after preincubation of neutrophils with pro-uPA in vitro. By subcellular fractionation of unstimulated neutrophils, 50% of uPAR is recovered in fractions containing latent alkaline phosphatase, corresponding to an intracellular compartment of easily mobilizable secretory vesicles distinct from both primary and specific granules, whereas the remaining 50% of uPAR is associated with a compartment eluting close to the specific granules. In contrast, the ligand pro-uPA is primarily (approximately 80%) found in the specific granules, but small amounts of pro-uPA/uPA (approximately 20%) coelute with latent alkaline phosphatase. Stimulation of neutrophils with FMLP results in translocation of uPAR as well as of pro-uPA from the secretory vesicles, whereas stimulation with PMA is required to translocate material from specific granules. Flow cytometry of neutrophils saturated with exogenous diisopropyl fluorophosphate-uPA shows a large excess (approximately 90%) of unoccupied uPAR on resting as well as FMLP- and PMA-stimulated neutrophils, suggesting a possible role for exogenous pro-uPA in providing neutrophils with a potential for plasminogen activation. These processes may be important for neutrophil extravasation and migration through extracellular matrix and for the contribution of neutrophils to resolution of thrombi.

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