Differential regulation of spontaneous and immune complex-induced neutrophil apoptosis by proinflammatory cytokines. Role of oxidants, Bax and caspase-3

J Leukoc Biol. 2002 Jul;72(1):125-32.


Neutrophil apoptosis represents a crucial step in the mechanisms governing the resolution of neutrophilic inflammation. Several soluble mediators of inflammation modulate neutrophil survival, retarding their apoptosis, whereas neutrophil activation by immune complexes (IC) results in the acceleration of apoptosis. To investigate neutrophil fate at the site of inflammation, we studied the effects of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-15, GM-CSF, and fMLP on spontaneous and IC-induced neutrophil apoptosis and the mechanisms regulating the survival of these cells. Spontaneous apoptosis was inhibited by GM-CSF, IL-6, and IL-15, but only GM-CSF overturned IC-induced apoptosis. No role of oxidants on the modulation of IC-dependent apoptosis was found. Indeed, fMLP or GM-CSF augmented the IC-dependent oxidative response, whereas the other compounds were ineffective. CGD neutrophils showed low levels of spontaneous apoptosis, but when exposed to IC, underwent a sharp increment of the apoptotic rate in a GM-CSF-inhibitable manner. Conversely, the expression of the proapoptotic protein Bax in 18-h aged neutrophils was down-regulated by GM-CSF, IL-6, and IL-15. Furthermore, IC induced a nearly threefold Bax up-regulation, which was completely reversed only by GM-CSF. Accordingly, the spontaneous activity of caspase-3 was inhibited by GM-CSF, IL-6, and IL-15. Furthermore, IC induced a sharp increment of enzymatic activity, and only GM-CSF inhibited the IC-dependent acceleration. Our results show that apoptosis of resting and IC-activated neutrophils is regulated differently, GM-CSF being the most potent neutrophil antiapoptotic factor. The results also unveil the existence of an oxidant-independent, Bax- and caspase-3-dependent, intracellular pathway regulating neutrophil apoptosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antigen-Antibody Complex / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytokines / pharmacology*
  • Granulomatous Disease, Chronic / immunology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation Mediators / pharmacology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Oxidants / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2*
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein


  • Antigen-Antibody Complex
  • BAX protein, human
  • Cytokines
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Oxidants
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • bcl-2-Associated X Protein
  • CASP3 protein, human
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases