Human and murine splenic neutrophils are potent phagocytes of IgG-opsonized red blood cells

Sanne M. Meinderts, Per-Arne Oldenborg, Boukje M. Beuger, Thomas R. L. Klei, Johanna Johansson, Taco W. Kuijpers, Takashi Matozaki, Elise J. Huisman, Masja de Haas, Timo K. van den Berg, Robin van Bruggen

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Red blood cell (RBC) clearance is known to occur primarily in the spleen, and is presumed to be executed by red pulp macrophages. Erythrophagocytosis in the spleen takes place as part of the homeostatic turnover of RBCs to remove old RBCs. It can be strongly promoted by immunoglobulin G (IgG) opsonization of RBCs, a condition that can occur as a consequence of autoantibody or alloantibody formation. The purpose of our study was to investigate which phagocytes are involved in IgG-mediated RBC clearance in the human spleen. We developed a highly specific in vitro assay to monitor RBC phagocytosis in total human splenocytes. Surprisingly, we have found that whereas homeostatic clearance of RBCs is primarily a task for splenic macrophages, neutrophils and, to a lesser extent, also monocytes can be a major factor in clearance of IgG-opsonized RBCs. Erythrophagocytosis by neutrophils is strongly dependent on the degree of opsonization of the RBCs. Additionally, the process is enhanced after blocking the "do not eat me" signal CD47 on the opsonized RBCs, which binds signal regulatory protein α, a myeloid inhibitory receptor that restricts phagocytosis. Moreover, RBCs isolated from autoimmune hemolytic anemia patients, opsonized by auto-IgGs, were shown to be readily phagocytosed by neutrophils. Finally, priming of neutrophils by inflammatory mediators such as tumor necrosis factor α and lipopolysaccharide further increases the magnitude of erythrophagocytosis. Collectively, our data suggest that neutrophils contribute significantly to the phagocytosis of antibody-opsonized RBCs, especially under inflammatory conditions. This indicates a hereto unanticipated contribution of neutrophils in RBC phagocytosis, especially under pathological conditions such as alloimmunization or autoimmunization
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-886
Number of pages12
JournalBlood advances
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2017


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