Neutrophil extracellular traps in giant cell arteritis biopsies: presentation, localization and co-expression with inflammatory cytokines

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2022 Apr 11;61(4):1639-1644. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keab505.


Objectives: To explore the presence of neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) in inflamed temporal artery biopsies (TABs) of patients with GCA.

Methods: Ten patients with GCA [five with limited and five with associated generalized vascular involvement, as defined by 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose PET with CT (PET/CT)] and eight with PMR were studied. The presence, location, quantitation and decoration of NETs with IL-6, IL-1β and IL-17A were assessed in TABs at the time of disease diagnosis by tissue immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy. Paired serum levels of IL-6 and IL-17A were also evaluated in all patients.

Results: All temporal artery biopsies from GCA, but not PMR, patients had NETs located mainly in the adventitia, adjacent to the vasa vasorum. NETs decorated with IL-6 were present in 8/10 TABs of GCA patients, of whom 5 were PET/CT(+) and 3 PET/CT(-) patients. IL-17A(+) NETs were observed in all GCA patients. IL-1β(+) NETs were not detected in any GCA patient. No relation was found between serum IL-6 and IL-17A levels and NETs containing IL-6 and/or IL-17A.

Conclusions: NETs bearing pro-inflammatory cytokines are present in inflamed GCA-TABs. Future studies with a larger number of patients from different centres will show whether the findings regarding neutrophils/NETs in the TAB are consistent and disclose their clinical impact.

Keywords: IL-17A; IL-6; NETs; giant cell arteritis; neutrophils; temporal arteries; vasculitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Cytokines
  • Extracellular Traps*
  • Giant Cell Arteritis* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-6
  • Positron Emission Tomography Computed Tomography
  • Temporal Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Temporal Arteries / pathology


  • Cytokines
  • Interleukin-17
  • Interleukin-6