Neutrophil function in inflammation and inflammatory diseases

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2010 Sep;49(9):1618-31. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keq045. Epub 2010 Mar 24.


In inflammatory conditions such as RA, the neutrophil has tended to be dismissed as a short-lived, terminally differentiated, irrelevant bystander cell. However, this is clearly not the case. A better understanding of the complex heterogeneous pathways and processes that constitute RA, in parallel with a more sophisticated knowledge of neutrophil biology has identified many potential roles for these cells in the persistence of inflammation and progression of joint damage, which should not be underestimated. Not only are neutrophils found in high numbers within the rheumatoid joint, both in synovial tissue and in joint fluid, they have a huge potential to directly inflict damage to tissue, bone and cartilage via the secretion of proteases and toxic oxygen metabolites, as well as driving inflammation through antigen presentation and secretion of cytokines, chemokines, prostaglandins and leucotrienes. Drugs already used to treat RA down-regulate many neutrophil functions, including migration to the joint, degranulation and production of inflammatory mediators, and these cells should be considered as important targets for the development of new therapies in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antirheumatic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / metabolism*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / physiopathology
  • Cytokines / drug effects
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Cytokines / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Neutrophils / physiology


  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Cytokines