Efficient Neutrophil Activation Requires Two Simultaneous Activating Stimuli

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Sep 18;22(18):10106. doi: 10.3390/ijms221810106.


Neutrophils are abundantly present in the synovium and synovial fluid of patients suffering from arthritis. Neutrophils can be activated by a multitude of stimuli and the current dogma states that this is a two-step process, consisting of a priming step followed by an activation step. Considering that neutrophil activation occurs in an inflammatory environment, where multiple stimuli are present, we argue that a two-step process is highly unlikely. Here, we indeed demonstrate that neutrophils require simultaneous ligation of two different receptors for efficient activation. We isolated human peripheral blood neutrophils and cultured them with various combinations of stimuli (GM-CSF, fMLF, TNF, and LPS). Next, we evaluated essential neutrophil functions, including degranulation and ROS production using flow cytometry, mediator release using ELISA, NETosis by a live cell imaging method, phagocytosis by imaging flow cytometry, and extracellular vesicle (EV) release quantified by high-resolution flow cytometry. Exposure of neutrophils to any combination of stimuli, but not to single stimuli, resulted in significant degranulation, and mediator and EV release. Furthermore, ROS production increased substantially by dual stimulation, yet appeared to be more dependent on the type of stimulation than on dual stimulation. Phagocytosis was induced to its maximum capacity by a single stimulus, while NETosis was not induced by any of the used physiological stimuli. Our data indicate that neutrophil activation is tightly regulated and requires activation by two simultaneous stimuli, which is largely independent of the combination of stimuli.

Keywords: NETosis; ROS production; degranulation; extracellular vesicle release; mediator release; phagocytosis.

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Extracellular Traps / metabolism
  • Extracellular Vesicles
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / metabolism
  • Neutrophil Activation*
  • Neutrophils / metabolism*
  • Phagocytosis*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Recombinant Proteins


  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • sargramostim
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor