Invertebrate extracellular phagocyte traps show that chromatin is an ancient defence weapon

Calum T. Robb, Elizabeth Dyrynda, Robert D. Gray, Adriano G. Rossi, Valerie J. Smith*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    107 Citations (Scopus)
    102 Downloads (Pure)


    Controlled release of chromatin from the nuclei of inflammatory cells is a process that entraps and kills microorganisms in the extracellular environment. Now termed ETosis, it is important for innate immunity in vertebrates. Paradoxically, however, in mammals, it can also contribute to certain pathologies. Here we show that ETosis occurs in several invertebrate species, including, remarkably, an acoelomate. Our findings reveal that the phenomenon is primordial and predates the evolution of the coelom. In invertebrates, the released chromatin participates in defence not only by ensnaring microorganisms and externalizing antibacterial histones together with other haemocyte-derived defence factors, but crucially, also provides the scaffold on which intact haemocytes assemble during encapsulation; a response that sequesters and kills potential pathogens infecting the body cavity. This insight into the early origin of ETosis identifies it as a very ancient process that helps explain some of its detrimental effects in mammals.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number4627
    JournalNature Communications
    Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2014

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
    • Chemistry(all)
    • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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