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J Immunol. 2012 Sep 15;189(6):2689-95. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1201719.

Neutrophil extracellular traps: double-edged swords of innate immunity.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Spectacular images of neutrophils ejecting nuclear chromatin and bactericidal proteins, in response to microbes, were first reported in 2004. As externalized chromatin could entangle bacteria, these structures were named neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs). Subsequent studies identified microorganisms and sterile conditions that stimulate NETs, as well as additional cell types that release extracellular chromatin. The release of NETs is the most dramatic stage in a cell death process called NETosis. Experimental evidence suggests that NETs participate in pathogenesis of autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, with proposed involvement in glomerulonephritis, chronic lung disease, sepsis, and vascular disorders. Exaggerated NETosis or diminished NET clearance likely increases risk of autoreactivity to NET components. The biological significance of NETs is just beginning to be explored. A more complete integration of NETosis within immunology and pathophysiology will require better understanding of NET properties associated with specific disease states and microbial infections. This may lead to the identification of important therapeutic targets.

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