Neutrophils are important cells in the immune system, produced in very large numbers in the bone marrow. When in circulation they patrol blood vessels and tissues seeking out sources of disease or damage to regulate inflammatory and immune responses.
Evidence supports the idea that neutrophils are transcriptionally active cells that have the ability to adapt their genome and change the function of the cell en route to tissues. They display different functions such as phagocytosis, generating reactive oxygen species, and producing cytokines in response to inflammation. But the area remains largely unexplored.
Irina Udalova, Professor of Molecular Immunology at the Kennedy Institute for Rheumatology (Nuffield Department of Orthopaedics, Rheumatology and Musculoskeletal Sciences) and senior author of a new study published in Nature Immunology said: "We know very little about neutrophil molecular wiring as it's an emerging field of study. So, our question was how the neutrophils change from the point of being developed in the bone marrow, then being released into the blood, and getting into the tissue. We discovered that rather than being static cells, they are remodelling their chromatin during their life cycle and that remodelling is often associated with transcriptional activity."
Having established that neutrophils do change during their transition to the tissue, the team then wanted to understand what transcriptional factors shape the responses.