Neutrophils protect against Staphylococcus aureus endocarditis progression independent of extracellular trap release

Severien Meyers, Marleen Lox, Sirima Kraisin, Laurens Liesenborghs, Caroline P Martens, Liesbeth Frederix, Stijn Van Bruggen, Marilena Crescente, Dominique Missiakas, Pieter Baatsen, Thomas Vanassche, Peter Verhamme, Kimberly Martinod

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-articlepeer-review

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BACKGROUND: Infective endocarditis (IE) is characterized by an infected thrombus at the heart valves. How bacteria bypass the immune system and cause these thrombi remains unclear. Neutrophils releasing NETs (neutrophil extracellular traps) lie at this interface between host defense and coagulation. We aimed to determine the role of NETs in IE immunothrombosis.

METHODS: We used a murine model of Staphylococcus aureus endocarditis in which IE is provoked on inflamed heart valves and characterized IE thrombus content by immunostaining identifying NETs. Antibody-mediated neutrophil depletion and neutrophil-selective PAD4 (peptidylarginine deiminase 4)-knockout mice were used to clarify the role of neutrophils and NETs, respectively. S. aureus mutants deficient in key virulence factors related to immunothrombosis (nucleases or staphylocoagulases) were investigated.

RESULTS: Neutrophils releasing NETs were present in infected thrombi and within cellular infiltrates in the surrounding vasculature. Neutrophil depletion increased occurrence of IE, whereas neutrophil-selective impairment of NET formation did not alter IE occurrence. Absence of S. aureus nuclease, which degrades NETs, did not affect endocarditis outcome. In contrast, absence of staphylocoagulases (coagulase and von Willebrand factor binding protein) led to improved survival, decreased bacteremia, smaller infiltrates, and decreased tissue destruction. Significantly more NETs were present in these vegetations, which correlated with decreased bacteria and cell death in the adjacent vascular wall.

CONCLUSIONS: Neutrophils protect against IE independent of NET release. Absence of S. aureus coagulases, but not nucleases, reduced IE severity and increased NET levels. Staphylocoagulase-induced fibrin likely hampers NETs from constraining infection and the resultant tissue damage, a hallmark of valve destruction in IE.

Original languageEnglish
JournalArteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)267-285
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Mice
  • Animals
  • Neutrophils/metabolism
  • Extracellular Traps/metabolism
  • Staphylococcus aureus
  • Thromboinflammation
  • Endocarditis, Bacterial/prevention & control
  • Endocarditis/metabolism
  • Staphylococcal Infections


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