Mycobacterium tuberculosis- induced neutrophil extracellular traps activate human macrophages

J Innate Immun. 2013;5(6):591-602. doi: 10.1159/000348676. Epub 2013 Apr 26.


Neutrophils activated by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), containing DNA and several biologically active cytosolic and granular proteins. These NETs may assist in the innate immune defense against different pathogens. We investigated whether the NET-forming neutrophils mediate an activating signal to macrophages during the early multicellular inflammatory reaction and granuloma formation. Mtb-induced NETs were found to be reactive oxygen species dependent and phagocytosis dependent. A neutrophil elastase inhibitor also delayed NET formation. However, NET formation occurred independently of Mtb-induced apoptosis. We observed close interactions between macrophages and Mtb-activated neutrophils, where macrophages bound and phagocytosed NETs. Significant secretion of the cytokines interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor-α, IL-1β and IL-10 were detected from macrophages cocultured with NETs from Mtb-activated but not phorbol myristate acetate-activated neutrophils. NETs binding heat shock protein 72 (Hsp72) or recombinant Hsp72 were able to trigger cytokine release from macrophages. Only Mtb-induced NETs contained Hsp72, suggesting that these NETs can transfer this danger signal to adjacent macrophages. We propose that Hsp72 sequestered in NETs plays an important role in the interaction between neutrophils and macrophages during the early innate immune phase of an Mtb infection. The immunomodulatory role of NETs and proteins derived from them may influence not only chronic inflammation during tuberculosis but also immune regulation and autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • HSP72 Heat-Shock Proteins / immunology
  • HSP72 Heat-Shock Proteins / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Interleukin-10 / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / immunology
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Macrophage Activation / drug effects
  • Macrophage Activation / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Macrophages / microbiology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / immunology*
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis / physiology
  • Neutrophil Activation / drug effects
  • Neutrophil Activation / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism
  • Neutrophils / microbiology
  • Phagocytosis / immunology
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / immunology
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • HSP72 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate