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PLoS One. 2013 Apr 23;8(4):e61377. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061377. Print 2013.

Human neutrophil cytoskeletal dynamics and contractility actively contribute to trans-endothelial migration.

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Fischell Department of Bioengineering, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, United States of America.


Transmigration through the endothelium is a key step in the immune response. In our recent work, the mechanical properties of the subendothelial matrix and biophysical state of the endothelium have been identified as key modulators of leukocyte trans-endothelial migration. Here, we demonstrated that neutrophil contractile forces and cytoskeletal dynamics also play an active biophysical role during transmigration through endothelial cell-cell junctions. Using our previously-established model for leukocyte transmigration, we first discovered that >93% of human neutrophils preferentially exploit the paracellular mode of transmigration in our in vitro model, and that is independent of subendothelial matrix stiffness. We demonstrated that inhibition of actin polymerization or depolymerization completely blocks transmigration, thus establishing a critical role for neutrophil actin dynamics in transmigration. Next, inhibition of neutrophil myosin II-mediated contractile forces renders 44% of neutrophils incapable of retracting their trailing edge under the endothelium for several minutes after the majority of the neutrophil transmigrates. Meanwhile, inhibition of neutrophil contractile forces or stabilization of microtubules doubles the time to complete transmigration for the first neutrophils to cross the endothelium. Notably, the time to complete transmigration is significantly reduced for subsequent neutrophils that cross through the same path as a previous neutrophil and is less dependent on neutrophil contractile forces and microtubule dynamics. These results suggest that the first neutrophil induces a gap in endothelial cell-cell adhesions, which "opens the door" in the endothelium and facilitates transmigration of subsequent neutrophils through the same hole. Collectively, this work demonstrates that neutrophils play an active biophysical role during the transmigration step of the immune response.

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