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Neutrophil cannibalism – a back up when the macrophage clearance system is insufficient

DOI: 10.1186/1465-9921-7-143

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Intranasal lipopolysaccharide administration was used to induce lung inflammation in mice. The animals were sacrificed at seven time points following administration, bronchoalveolar lavage was performed and tissue samples obtained. Electron microscopy and histochemistry was used to assess neutrophil phagocytosis.Electron microscopic studies revealed that phagocytosing neutrophils was common, at 24 h after LPS administration almost 50% of the total number of neutrophils contained phagosomes, and the engulfed material was mainly derived from other neutrophils. Histochemistry on bronchoalvolar lavage cells further showed phagocytosing neutrophils to be frequently occurring.Neutrophils are previously known to phagocytose invading pathogens and harmful particles. However, this study demonstrates that neutrophils are also able to engulf apoptotic neutrophils or cell debris resulting from secondary necrosis of neutrophils. Neutrophils may thereby contribute to clearance and resolution of inflammation, thus acting as a back up system in situations when the macrophage clearance system is insufficient and/or overwhelmed.Neutrophils are short lived immune cells who invade tissues in response to a variety of stimuli, for example viral and bacterial infections [1,2]. They are professional phagocytes and contribute to resolution of inflammation by removing infectious and inflammatory stimuli [1,2]. Apart from being present during acute infections, neutrophils are also found to a variable degree during airway diseases such as COPD, asthma and ARDS/ALI [3,4]. Neutrophils have a high turnover and are normally rapidly cleared by apoptosis, followed by macrophage phagocytosis [2,5]. During infection a large number of neutrophils are present in order to efficiently clear the infection, and studies have shown that ingestion of bacteria may delay neutrophil apoptosis [2], thereby causing very large number of cells accumulating in the same area. In such cases, the normally rapid clearance


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