Neutrophil Extracellular Traps-DNase Balance and Autoimmunity

Cells. 2021 Oct 5;10(10):2667. doi: 10.3390/cells10102667.


Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are macromolecular structures programmed to trap circulating bacteria and viruses. The accumulation of NETs in the circulation correlates with the formation of anti-double-stranded (ds) DNA antibodies and is considered a causative factor for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The digestion of DNA by DNase1 and DNases1L3 is the rate- limiting factor for NET accumulation. Mutations occurring in one of these two DNase genes determine anti-DNA formation and are associated with severe Lupus-like syndromes and lupus nephritis (LN). A second mechanism that may lead to DNase functional impairment is the presence of circulating DNase inhibitors in patients with low DNase activity, or the generation of anti-DNase antibodies. This phenomenon has been described in a relevant number of patients with SLE and may represent an important mechanism determining autoimmunity flares. On the basis of the reviewed studies, it is tempting to suppose that the blockade or selective depletion of anti-DNase autoantibodies could represent a potential novel therapeutic approach to prevent or halt SLE and LN. In general, strategies aimed at reducing NET formation might have a similar impact on the progression of SLE and LN.

Keywords: autoimmune disease; immunosuppressive treatment; lupus nephritis; neutrophil extracellular traps; systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / blood
  • Autoimmunity* / genetics
  • DNA / blood
  • Deoxyribonucleases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Deoxyribonucleases / genetics
  • Deoxyribonucleases / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Traps / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics


  • Antibodies
  • DNA
  • Deoxyribonucleases