Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in autoimmune diseases: A comprehensive review

Autoimmun Rev. 2017 Nov;16(11):1160-1173. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2017.09.012. Epub 2017 Sep 9.


Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are fibrous networks which protrude from the membranes of activated neutrophils. NETs are found in a variety of conditions such as infection, malignancy, atherosclerosis, and autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV), psoriasis, and gout. Studies suggest that an imbalance between "NETosis," which is a process by which NETs are formed, and NET degradation may be associated with autoimmune diseases. Neutrophils, interleukin-8, ANCA and other inflammatory molecules are considered to play a key role in NET formation. Prolonged exposure to NETs-related cascades is associated with autoimmunity and increases the chance of systemic organ damage. In this review, we discuss the roles of various inflammatory molecules in relation to NETs. We also describe the role of NETs in the pathogenesis of autoimmune diseases and discuss the possibility of using targeted therapies directed to NETs and associated molecules to treat autoimmune diseases.

Keywords: ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV); Anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCA); Autoimmunity; Interleukin-8 (IL-8); Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs); Neutrophils; Rheumatoid arthritis (RA); Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology*
  • Extracellular Traps / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Prognosis