Role of neutrophils in atherogenesis: an update

Eur J Clin Invest. 2016 Mar;46(3):252-63. doi: 10.1111/eci.12566. Epub 2016 Feb 2.


Background: The role of neutrophils in the beginning and the progression of the atherosclerotic process did not receive much attention until the last years. On the contrary, recent data, in both the experimental animals and humans, suggest important effects of these cells with possible clinical consequences.

Materials and methods: This narrative review was based on the papers found on PubMed and MEDLINE up to July 2015. The search terms used were 'neutrophil, atherosclerosis' in combination with 'recruitment, chemokine, plaque destabilization and pathophysiology'.

Results: Different models demonstrate the presence and the actions of neutrophils in the early steps of the atherogenesis confirming the fundamental role of these cells in the response of the innate immune system to different pathogens (in this context the modified lipoproteins). However, also the late phases of the atherosclerotic process, in particular the destabilization of a mature plaque, seem to be modulated by the neutrophils, possibly through the interaction with recently discovered biological systems such as the endocannabinoids.

Conclusions: The understanding of the mechanisms involved in the modulation exerted by neutrophils in atherosclerosis is pivotal in terms of the complete definition of the overall picture. This approach will certainly give us new targets and new pharmacological opportunities for the anti-inflammatory strategy of the cardiovascular prevention.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; cardiovascular prevention; inflammation; neutrophils.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / immunology*
  • Atherosclerosis / physiopathology
  • Chemokines / immunology
  • Disease Progression
  • Endocannabinoids / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / cytology
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / immunology*
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic / physiopathology


  • Chemokines
  • Endocannabinoids