Brief Report: Drugs Implicated in Systemic Autoimmunity Modulate Neutrophil Extracellular Trap Formation

Arthritis Rheumatol. 2018 Mar;70(3):468-474. doi: 10.1002/art.40372. Epub 2018 Jan 23.


Objective: Aberrant neutrophil extracellular trap (NET) formation has been implicated as a mechanism to induce autoreactivity in individuals at risk of autoimmune diseases. The objective of this study was to assess whether medications implicated in cases of drug-induced autoimmunity (hydralazine and procainamide) and medications less commonly associated with drug-induced autoimmunity (minocycline and clozapine) induce NET formation and/or prevent NET degradation.

Methods: Human neutrophils were incubated with the drugs of interest and resultant NET formation was quantified by fluorescent microscopy. The ability of these drugs to interfere with NET degradation by serum nuclei was assessed. Pathways of drug-induced NET formation were studied with pharmacologic inhibitors of reactive oxygen species (ROS), peptidylarginine deiminases (PADs), and muscarinic receptors, and by assessment of intracellular calcium levels by flow cytometry. To determine if NET protein cargo varies by drug stimulus and/or neutrophil source, proteomic analysis of NET lysates induced by specific medications was compared using neutrophils from healthy donors and from patients with autoimmune diseases.

Results: Hydralazine and procainamide significantly induced NET formation while minocycline and clozapine did not. None of the medications significantly impaired NET degradation. NETosis induced by these drugs required NADPH oxidase and PAD4 activation. Procainamide triggered NETs via muscarinic receptor engagement on neutrophils, while hydralazine modulated calcium release from intracellular stores. Differences in protein cargo, particularly histone content, were observed in NETs induced by hydralazine and procainamide.

Conclusion: Medications commonly implicated in drug-induced autoimmunity trigger NET formation displaying distinct protein cargo, via common and specific pathways. NETosis may play a role in the pathogenesis of drug-induced autoimmunity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / immunology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / immunology
  • Antihypertensive Agents / adverse effects
  • Antihypertensive Agents / immunology
  • Antipsychotic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antipsychotic Agents / immunology
  • Autoimmunity / drug effects*
  • Autoimmunity / immunology
  • Clozapine / adverse effects
  • Clozapine / immunology
  • Extracellular Traps / drug effects*
  • Extracellular Traps / immunology
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Hydralazine / adverse effects
  • Hydralazine / immunology
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Minocycline / adverse effects
  • Minocycline / immunology
  • Neutrophils / drug effects*
  • Neutrophils / immunology
  • Procainamide / adverse effects
  • Procainamide / immunology
  • Proteomics
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Hydralazine
  • Minocycline
  • Clozapine
  • Procainamide