Neutrophil elastase plays a non-redundant role in remodeling the venular basement membrane and neutrophil diapedesis post-ischemia/reperfusion injury

J Pathol. 2019 May;248(1):88-102. doi: 10.1002/path.5234. Epub 2019 Mar 22.


Ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury is a severe inflammatory insult associated with numerous pathologies, such as myocardial infarction, stroke and acute kidney injury. I/R injury is characterized by a rapid influx of activated neutrophils secreting toxic free radical species and degrading enzymes that can irreversibly damage the tissue, thus impairing organ functions. Significant efforts have been invested in identifying therapeutic targets to suppress neutrophil recruitment and activation post-I/R injury. In this context, pharmacological targeting of neutrophil elastase (NE) has shown promising anti-inflammatory efficacy in a number of experimental and clinical settings of I/R injury and is considered a plausible clinical strategy for organ care. However, the mechanisms of action of NE, and hence its inhibitors, in this process are not fully understood. Here we conducted a comprehensive analysis of the impact of NE genetic deletion on neutrophil infiltration in four murine models of I/R injury as induced in the heart, kidneys, intestine and cremaster muscle. In all models, neutrophil migration into ischemic regions was significantly suppressed in NE-/- mice as compared with wild-type controls. Analysis of inflamed cremaster muscle and mesenteric microvessels by intravital and confocal microscopy revealed a selective entrapment of neutrophils within venular walls, most notably at the level of the venular basement membrane (BM) following NE deletion/pharmacological blockade. This effect was associated with the suppression of NE-mediated remodeling of the low matrix protein expressing regions within the venular BM used by transmigrating neutrophils as exit portals. Furthermore, whilst NE deficiency led to reduced neutrophil activation and vascular leakage, levels of monocytes and prohealing M2 macrophages were reduced in tissues of NE-/- mice subjected to I/R. Collectively our results identify a vital and non-redundant role for NE in supporting neutrophil breaching of the venular BM post-I/R injury but also suggest a protective role for NE in promoting tissue repair. © 2019 The Authors. The Journal of Pathology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland.

Keywords: elastase; ischemia/reperfusion injury; neutrophil; venular basement membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basement Membrane / enzymology
  • Basement Membrane / pathology
  • Basement Membrane / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Deletion
  • Kidney / blood supply
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Leukocyte Elastase / deficiency
  • Leukocyte Elastase / genetics
  • Leukocyte Elastase / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / enzymology
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / pathology
  • Myocardial Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology
  • Neutrophil Infiltration / physiology
  • Neutrophils / enzymology
  • Neutrophils / physiology*
  • Reperfusion Injury / enzymology*
  • Reperfusion Injury / pathology
  • Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology
  • Transendothelial and Transepithelial Migration / physiology*
  • Vascular Remodeling / physiology*
  • Venules / enzymology
  • Venules / pathology
  • Venules / physiopathology


  • Leukocyte Elastase