The role of neutrophils during intestinal inflammation

Mucosal Immunol. 2012 Jul;5(4):354-66. doi: 10.1038/mi.2012.24. Epub 2012 Apr 11.


Polymorphonuclear leukocytes or neutrophils play a critical role in the maintenance of intestinal homeostasis. They have elegant defense mechanisms to eliminate microbes that have translocated across a single layer of mucosal epithelial cells that form a critical barrier between the gut lumen and the underlying tissue. During the inflammatory response, neutrophils also contribute to the recruitment of other immune cells and facilitate mucosal healing by releasing mediators necessary for the resolution of inflammation. Although the above responses are clearly beneficial, excessive recruitment and accumulation of activated neutrophils in the intestine under pathological conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease is associated with mucosal injury and debilitating disease symptoms. Thus, depending on the circumstances, neutrophils can be viewed as either good or bad. In this article, we summarize the beneficial and deleterious roles of neutrophils in the intestine during health and disease and provide an overview of what is known about neutrophil function in the gut.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Intestinal Diseases / immunology*
  • Intestinal Diseases / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / immunology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Neutrophil Activation / immunology
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism