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Semin Immunopathol. 2013 Jul;35(4):455-63. doi: 10.1007/s00281-013-0375-7. Epub 2013 Apr 4.

Low-density granulocytes: a distinct class of neutrophils in systemic autoimmunity.

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Division of Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, 1150 W. Medical Center Drive 5520 Medical Science Research Building-I, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-5680, USA.


Recent studies have renewed the interest on the potential role that neutrophils play in the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and other autoimmune conditions. A distinct subset of proinflammatory, low-density granulocytes (LDGs) isolated from the peripheral blood mononuclear cell fractions of patients with SLE has been described. While the origin and role of LDGs needs to be fully characterized, there is evidence that these cells may contribute to lupus pathogenesis and to the development of end-organ damage through heightened proinflammatory responses, altered phagocytic capacity, enhanced ability to synthesize type I interferons, and to kill endothelial cells. Furthermore, these cells readily form neutrophil extracellular traps, a phenomenon that may promote autoantigen externalization and organ damage. This review examines the biology and potential origin of LDGs, describes the ultrastructural characteristics of these cells, and discusses their putative pathogenic role in systemic autoimmune diseases.

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