Enhanced neutrophil extracellular trap formation in acute pancreatitis contributes to disease severity and is reduced by chloroquine

Pranav Murthy, Aatur D. Singhi, Mark A. Ross, Patricia Loughran, Pedram Paragomi, Georgios I. Papachristou, David C. Whitcomb, Amer H. Zureikat, Michael T. Lotze, Herbert J. Zeh, Brian A. Boone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Background: Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) are generated when activated neutrophils, driven by PAD4, release their DNA, histones, HMGB1, and other intracellular granule components. NETs play a role in acute pancreatitis, worsening pancreatic inflammation, and promoting pancreatic duct obstruction. The autophagy inhibitor chloroquine (CQ) inhibits NET formation; therefore, we investigated the impact of CQ mediated NET inhibition in murine models of pancreatitis and human correlative studies. Methods: L-arginine and choline deficient ethionine supplemented (CDE) diet models of acute pancreatitis were studied in wild type and PAD4−/− mice, incapable of forming NETs. Isolated neutrophils were stimulated to induce NET formation and visualized with fluorescence microscopy. CQ treatment (0.5 mg/ml PO) was initiated after induction of pancreatitis. Biomarkers of NET formation, including cell-free DNA, citrullinated histone H3 (CitH3), and MPO-DNA conjugates were measured in murine serum and correlative human patient serum samples. Results: We first confirmed the role of NETs in the pathophysiology of acute pancreatitis by demonstrating that PAD4−/− mice had decreased pancreatitis severity and improved survival compared to wild-type controls. Furthermore, patients with severe acute pancreatitis had elevated levels of cell-free DNA and MPO-DNA conjugates, consistent with NET formation. Neutrophils from mice with pancreatitis were more prone to NET formation and CQ decreased this propensity to form NETs. CQ significantly reduced serum cell-free DNA and citrullinated histone H3 in murine models of pancreatitis, increasing survival in both models. Conclusions: Inhibition of NETs with CQ decreases the severity of acute pancreatitis and improves survival. Translating these findings into clinical trials of acute pancreatitis is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number28
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Issue numberJAN
StatePublished - 2019


  • Autophagy
  • Chloroquine
  • Citrullinated histone
  • Neutrophil extracellular traps
  • Pancreatitis
  • Systemic inflammatory response

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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