Neutrophil-Extracellular Traps, Cell-Free DNA, and Immunothrombosis in Companion Animals: A Review Academic Article uri icon


  • Immunothrombosis is a potentially beneficial physiological process that aids innate immunity and host defense against pathogen invasion. However, this process can also be damaging when it occurs to excess or in critical blood vessels. Formation of extracellular traps by leukocytes, particularly neutrophils, is central to our understanding of immunothrombosis. In addition to degranulation and phagocytosis, extracellular traps are the third mechanism by which neutrophils combat potential pathogens. These traps consist of extracellular DNA decorated with bactericidal cellular proteins, including elastase, myeloperoxidase, and cathepsins. Neutrophils can release these structures as part of a controlled cell-death process or via a process termed vital NETosis that enables the cells to extrude DNA but remain viable. There is accumulating evidence that NETosis occurs in companion animals, including dogs, horses, and cats, and that it actively contributes to pathogenesis. Numerous studies have been published detailing various methods for identification and quantification of extracellular trap formation, including cell-free DNA, measurements of histones and proteins such as high-mobility group box-1, and techniques involving microscopy and flow cytometry. Here, we outline the present understanding of these phenomena and the mechanisms of extracellular trap formation. We critically review the data regarding measurement of NETosis in companion animals, summarize the existing literature on NETosis in veterinary species, and speculate on what therapeutic options these insights might present to clinicians in the future.

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Goggs, R., Jeffery, U., LeVine, D. N., & Li, R.

citation count

  • 11

complete list of authors

  • Goggs, Robert||Jeffery, Unity||LeVine, Dana N||Li, Ronald HL

publication date

  • July 2019