The Expanding Role of Extracellular Traps in Inflammation and Autoimmunity: The New Players in Casting Dark Webs

Stephanie U.Shane Huang, Kim Maree O’Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


The first description of a new form of neutrophil cell death distinct from that of apoptosis or necrosis was discovered in 2004 and coined neutrophil extracellular traps “(NETs)” or “NETosis”. Different stimuli for NET formation, and pathways that drive neutrophils to commit to NETosis have been elucidated in the years that followed. Critical enzymes required for NET formation have been discovered and targeted therapeutically. NET formation is no longer restricted to neutrophils but has been discovered in other innate cells: macrophages/monocytes, mast Cells, basophils, dendritic cells, and eosinophils. Furthermore, extracellular DNA can also be extruded from both B and T cells. It has become clear that although this mechanism is thought to enhance host defense by ensnaring bacteria within large webs of DNA to increase bactericidal killing capacity, it is also injurious to innocent bystander tissue. Proteases and enzymes released from extracellular traps (ETs), injure epithelial and endothelial cells perpetuating inflammation. In the context of autoimmunity, ETs release over 70 well-known autoantigens. ETs are associated with pathology in multiple diseases: lung diseases, vasculitis, autoimmune kidney diseases, atherosclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and psoriasis. Defining these pathways that drive ET release will provide insight into mechanisms of pathological insult and provide potential therapeutic targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3793
Number of pages35
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2022


  • autoimmunity
  • basophils
  • extracellular traps
  • inflammation
  • macrophage/monocytes
  • neutrophils
  • therapeutic targets

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