Erythrocyte interaction with neutrophil extracellular traps in coronary artery thrombosis following myocardial infarction

Pathology. 2022 Feb;54(1):87-94. doi: 10.1016/j.pathol.2021.05.099. Epub 2021 Sep 4.


Cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarction (MI), is the leading cause of death globally. Current antithrombotic medications used during MI treatment are predominantly directed towards platelet inhibition and, to a lesser extent, anticoagulation. Bleeding is a major risk of such treatment and could be circumvented by targeting other causative factors essential for arterial thrombus formation. We sought to re-evaluate the cellular composition of arterial thrombus in order to better understand mechanisms that lead to coronary artery thrombosis in acute MI. We performed detailed histological and immunohistochemical analysis of coronary artery thrombi aspirated from 26 patients undergoing emergency percutaneous coronary intervention for acute ST elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI). Coronary arterial thrombi had an unanticipated cellular heterogeneity. Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) were observed in thrombi as identified by anti-citrullinated histone 3 and anti-myeloperoxidase staining. Increased abundance of NETs was seen directly surrounding erythrocytes. Extracellular iron and erythrocyte fragments were also associated with areas of NETs suggesting a possible link. Our results shed light on potential involvement of erythrocytes in coronary arterial thrombosis through activation of platelets and induction of NETs. If supported by further in vitro and in vivo studies, novel therapies to inhibit NET formation or coagulation activation by erythrocyte release products, could bolster current myocardial infarction treatment.

Keywords: Myocardial infarction; NETosis; coronary artery thrombus; erythrocyte; neutrophils.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Blood Platelets / pathology
  • Coronary Thrombosis* / etiology
  • Coronary Thrombosis* / pathology
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology
  • Erythrocytes*
  • Extracellular Traps*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications*
  • Myocardial Infarction / pathology
  • Neutrophils / pathology*