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J Leukoc Biol. 1996 Jun;59(6):902-7.

Killing of phagocytosed Staphylococcus aureus by human neutrophils requires intracellular free calcium.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, Link√∂ping University, Sweden.


The mobilization of intracellular calcium plays an important role in regulating neutrophil activation. With this in mind we investigated the effect of intra- and extracellular calcium on the ability of human neutrophils to kill complement-opsonized Staphylococcus aureus. We found that a rise in intracellular calcium is necessary for efficient killing of phagocytosed S. aureus. In the presence of extracellular calcium, killing of ingested bacteria in calcium-buffered neutrophils compared with normal cells was slightly reduced. Calcium buffering had no effect on phagocytic uptake by the neutrophils, but did decrease the generation of toxic oxygen metabolites, measured as chemiluminescence (CL). In nondepleted and calcium-depleted cells, removal of extracellular calcium did not affect ingestion but did cause a marked decrease in the ability to kill the bacteria. In parallel, the CL response was substantially reduced or completely blocked. These data show that calcium is not a prerequisite for phagocytosis of S. aureus by human neutrophils, but does play a vital role in the post-ingestion killing of the bacteria by regulating the generation of toxic oxygen metabolites.

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