Neutrophil perversion in demyelinating autoimmune diseases: Mechanisms to medicine

Autoimmun Rev. 2017 Mar;16(3):294-307. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2017.01.013. Epub 2017 Feb 2.


Neutrophils are essential to a healthy life, yet pose a threat if improperly controlled. Neutrophil perversion is well documented in a variety of inflammatory disorders (e.g. arthritis, lupus, psoriasis), but is only beginning to be demystified in autoimmune demyelination, the most common cause of neurological disability in young adults. Using the animal model experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE), several molecules that help neutrophils invade the central nervous system (CNS) have been identified. Mechanisms by which neutrophils may contribute to demyelination have also been proposed (e.g. secretion of endothelial/leukocytic modulators, antigen presentation to T cells, myelin degradation and phagocytosis). In human, neutrophils are seen in the CNS of people with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder and other severe variants of autoimmune demyelinating diseases. At the time of autopsy for multiple sclerosis (MS) - often many years after its onset - neutrophils appear to have escaped the scene of the crime. However, new clues implicate neutrophils in MS relapses and progression. This warrants further investigating 1) the differential importance of neutrophils among demyelinating diseases, 2) the largely unknown effects of current MS therapies on neutrophils, and 3) the potential of neutrophil proteins as clinical biomarkers or therapeutic targets.

Keywords: Acute disseminated encephalomyelitis; Autoimmunity; Demyelination; Disease-modifying therapies; Granulocytes; Polymorphonuclear leukocytes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / immunology*
  • Encephalomyelitis, Autoimmune, Experimental / immunology
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / immunology*