Multiparametric Profiling of Neutrophil Function via a High-Throughput Flow Cytometry-Based Assay

Cells. 2023 Feb 25;12(5):743. doi: 10.3390/cells12050743.


Neutrophils are a vital component of the innate immune system and play an essential function in the recognition and clearance of bacterial and fungal pathogens. There is great interest in understanding mechanisms of neutrophil dysfunction in the setting of disease and deciphering potential side effects of immunomodulatory drugs on neutrophil function. We developed a high throughput flow cytometry-based assay for detecting changes to four canonical neutrophil functions following biological or chemical triggers. Our assay detects neutrophil phagocytosis, reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation, ectodomain shedding, and secondary granule release in a single reaction mixture. By selecting fluorescent markers with minimal spectral overlap, we merge four detection assays into one microtiter plate-based assay. We demonstrate the response to the fungal pathogen, Candida albicans and validate the assay's dynamic range using the inflammatory cytokines G-CSF, GM-CSF, TNFα, and IFNγ. All four cytokines increased ectodomain shedding and phagocytosis to a similar degree while GM-CSF and TNFα were more active in degranulation when compared to IFNγ and G-CSF. We further demonstrated the impact of small molecule inhibitors such as kinase inhibition downstream of Dectin-1, a critical lectin receptor responsible for fungal cell wall recognition. Bruton's tyrosine kinase (Btk), Spleen tyrosine kinase (Syk), and Src kinase inhibition suppressed all four measured neutrophil functions but all functions were restored with lipopolysaccharide co-stimulation. This new assay allows for multiple comparisons of effector functions and permits identification of distinct subpopulations of neutrophils with a spectrum of activity. Our assay also offers the potential for studying the intended and off-target effects of immunomodulatory drugs on neutrophil responses.

Keywords: flow cytometry; function; high throughput assay; neutrophil; neutrophil augmentation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor / pharmacology
  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor* / pharmacology
  • Immunomodulating Agents
  • Neutrophils*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Immunomodulating Agents
  • Cytokines
  • Granulocyte Colony-Stimulating Factor