Regulation of Circulating Neutrophil Numbers Under Homeostasis and in Disease

J Innate Immun. 2013;5(4):304-14. doi: 10.1159/000350282. Epub 2013 Apr 6.


Neutrophils are the most abundant circulating leukocyte and play a fundamental role in the innate immune response. Patients with neutropenia, leukocyte adhesion deficiency syndrome or chronic granulomatous disease are particularly prone to bacterial and fungal infection. However, the highly destructive capacity of these cells also increases the potential for neutrophil damage to healthy tissues, as seen in a number of inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The homeostatic control of circulating neutrophil levels is thus critical, as an imbalance can result in overwhelming infection or inappropriate inflammatory states. Neutrophil homeostasis is maintained by a fine balance between granulopoiesis in the bone marrow, retention in and release from the bone marrow and clearance and destruction. This review discusses the molecular mechanisms regulating neutrophil mobilization from the bone marrow, with emphasis on the antagonistic roles of the CXCR4 (C-X-C motif receptor 4)/CXCL12 (C-X-C motif ligand 12) and CXCR2/ELR+ (Glu-Leu-Arg) CXC chemokine signaling axes in the bone marrow. A role for the CXCL12/CXCR4 chemokine axis in the trafficking of senescent neutrophils back to the bone marrow for clearance, along with the role of bone marrow macrophages and the molecules that mediate neutrophil clearance by bone marrow macrophages, is also discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Circulation
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology*
  • Bone Marrow Cells / immunology
  • Cell Degranulation
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Immune System Diseases / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Receptors, CXCR4 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Interleukin-8B / metabolism


  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Receptors, CXCR4
  • Receptors, Interleukin-8B