Analysis of neutrophil apoptosis

Methods Mol Biol. 2007;412:177-200. doi: 10.1007/978-1-59745-467-4_12.


Neutrophil-derived granule enzymes, oxidants, and mediators have been implicated in the pathogenesis of a variety of inflammatory diseases. Neutrophil apoptosis is associated with the loss of expression of adhesion molecules and greatly reduced responsiveness to external stimuli, so that these cells become functionally isolated from their environment. In contrast with necrosis, apoptosis is associated with preservation of plasma membrane integrity, so that release of harmful neutrophil contents is limited, and the inert neutrophils are phagocytosed by local macrophages. Furthermore, phagocytosis of apoptotic neutrophils by human macrophages in vitro suppresses release of macrophage-derived pro-inflammatory mediators. In this way, by downregulating neutrophil functions and triggering "silent" clearance by phagocytes, apoptosis provides a mechanism for the safe disposal of potentially destructive inflammatory cells. Many of the molecular events involved in the apoptosis pathway have been identified and several complementary methods may be employed to identify and quantitate neutrophil apoptosis. This chapter will discuss analysis of neutrophil morphology, DNA fragmentation, membrane changes, mitochondrial alterations, caspase activation, and phagocytosis of apoptotic neutrophils by macrophages.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis* / physiology
  • Blotting, Western
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Centrifugation / instrumentation
  • Centrifugation / methods
  • DNA Fragmentation
  • Electrophoresis, Agar Gel
  • Fluorometry / methods
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Polarization / methods
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Permeability
  • Phagocytosis / physiology
  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Staining and Labeling / methods


  • Reagent Kits, Diagnostic
  • Caspases