Vascular pathologies underpin and intertwine autoimmune rheumatic diseases and cardiovascular conditions, and atherosclerosis is increasingly recognized as the leading cause of morbidity in conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis and antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody-associated vasculitis. Neutrophils, important cells in the innate immune system, exert their functional effects in tissues via a variety of mechanisms, including the generation of neutrophil extracellular traps and the production of reactive oxygen species. Neutrophils have been implicated in the pathogenesis of several rheumatic diseases, and can also intimately interact with the vascular system, either through modulating endothelial barriers at the blood-vessel interface, or through associations with platelets. Emerging data suggest that neutrophils also have an important role maintaining homeostasis in individual organs and can protect the vascular system. Furthermore, studies using high-dimensional omics technologies have advanced our understanding of neutrophil diversity, and immature neutrophils are receiving new attention in rheumatic diseases including SLE and systemic vasculitis. Developments in genomic, imaging and organoid technologies are beginning to enable more in-depth investigations into the pathophysiology of vascular inflammation in rheumatic diseases, making now a good time to re-examine the full scope of roles of neutrophils in these processes.
Nat rev rheumatol