Colocalization of neutrophils, extracellular DNA and coagulation factors during NETosis: Development and utility of an immunofluorescence-based microscopy platform

Laura D. Healy, Cristina Puy, Asako Itakura, Tiffany Chu, David K. Robinson, Alan Bylund, Kevin G. Phillips, Elizabeth E. Gardiner, Owen J.T. McCarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background Neutrophils, the most populous innate immune cell type, are the first responders to sites of infection and inflammation. Neutrophils can release their DNA to form extracellular traps (NETs), webs of DNA and granular proteases that contribute to pathogen clearance and promote thrombus formation. At present, the study of NETs is in part limited to the qualitative analysis of fluorescence microscopy-based images, thus quantification of the interactions between NETs and coagulation factors remains ill-defined. Aim Develop a quantitative method to measure the spatial distribution of DNA and colocalization of coagulation factor binding to neutrophils and NETs utilizing fluorescence-based microscopy. Approach Human neutrophils were purified from peripheral blood, bound to fibronectin and treated with the PKC-activator phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) to induce neutrophil activation and NETs formation. Samples were incubated with purified coagulation factors or plasma before staining with a DNA-binding dye and coagulation factor-specific antibodies. The spatial distribution of DNA and coagulation factors was imaged via fluorescence microscopy and quantified via a custom-built MATLAB-based image analysis algorithm. The algorithm first established global thresholding parameters on a training set of fluorescence image data and then systematically quantified intensity profiles across treatment conditions. Quantitative comparison of treatment conditions was enabled through the normalization of fluorescent intensities using the number of cells per image to determine the percent and area of DNA and coagulation factor binding per cell. Results Upon stimulation with PMA, NETs formation resulted in an increase in the area of DNA per cell. The coagulation factor fibrinogen bound to both the neutrophil cell body as well as NETs, while prothrombin, FX and FVIIa binding was restricted to the neutrophil cell body. The Gla domain of FX was required to mediate FX-neutrophil binding. Activated protein C (APC), but not Gla-less APC, bound to neutrophil cell bodies and NETs in a punctate manner. Neither FXIIa nor FXIa were found to bind either neutrophil cell bodies or NETs. Fibrinogen binding was dependent on extracellular DNA, while FX and APC required phosphatidylserine exposure for binding to activated neutrophils. Conclusions We have developed a quantitative measurement platform to define the spatial localization of fluorescently-labeled coagulation factor binding to neutrophils and extracellular DNA during NETosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-84
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Immunological Methods
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Biophysical measurement
  • Coagulation factors
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Neutrophil extracellular traps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


Dive into the research topics of 'Colocalization of neutrophils, extracellular DNA and coagulation factors during NETosis: Development and utility of an immunofluorescence-based microscopy platform'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this