Background: Gout is a prevalent inflammatory arthritis affecting 1-2% of adults characterized by activation of innate immune cells by monosodium urate (MSU) crystals resulting in the secretion of interleukin-1β (IL-1β). Since neutrophils play a major role in gout we sought to determine whether their activation may involve the formation of proinflammatory neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in relation to autophagy and IL-1β.
Methodology/principal findings: Synovial fluid neutrophils from six patients with gout crisis and peripheral blood neutrophils from six patients with acute gout and six control subjects were isolated. MSU crystals, as well as synovial fluid or serum obtained from patients with acute gout, were used for the treatment of control neutrophils. NET formation was assessed using immunofluorescence microscopy. MSU crystals or synovial fluid or serum from patients induced NET formation in control neutrophils. Importantly, NET production was observed in neutrophils isolated from synovial fluid or peripheral blood from patients with acute gout. NETs contained the alarmin high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) supporting their pro-inflammatory potential. Inhibition of phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase signaling or phagolysosomal fusion prevented NET formation, implicating autophagy in this process. NET formation was driven at least in part by IL-1β as demonstrated by experiments involving IL-1β and its inhibitor anakinra.
Conclusions/significance: These findings document for the first time that activation of neutrophils in gout is associated with the formation of proinflammatory NETs and links this process to both autophagy and IL-1β. Modulation of the autophagic machinery may represent an additional therapeutic study in crystalline arthritides.