Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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In the Net

Pathogen-snaring traps extruded from neutrophils stimulate other immune cell responses

06 April 2021

In the Net

It’s an act of self sacrifice that corners the enemy and rallies comrades to the cause. Neutrophils (immune cells pictured, orange) detect invading microbes and counter threats with kamikaze spirit. They die off while valiantly emitting neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs, green), composed of antimicrobial proteins and genetic material, that capture bacteria (pink) like flies in a spider web. A new study has revealed how NETs also spur macrophages, other immune system components, into action. Macrophages engulf the NETs and the DNA material from them stimulates sensors inside the macrophage. This leads to the production of type 1 interferons, molecules that limit the spread of infections and further invigorate the immune system. In this way neutrophils leave a legacy of defence as reinforcements arrive in their wake. If new treatment approaches build on this mechanism for encouraging interferon release in patients, their lasting impact could be even greater.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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