Bovine neutrophils release extracellular traps and cooperate with macrophages in Mycobacterium avium subsp paratuberculosis clearance in vitro

17 Mar 2021
Ladero-Auñon I, Molina E, Holder A, Kolakowski J, Harris H, Urkitza A, Anguita J, Werling D and Elguezabal N


Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (Map) is the underlying pathogen causing bovine paratuberculosis (PTB), an enteric granulomatous disease that mainly affects ruminants and for which an effective treatment is needed. Macrophages are the primary target cells for Map, which survives and replicates intracellularly by inhibiting phagosome maturation. Neutrophils are present at disease sites during the early stages of the infection, but seem to be absent in the late stage, in contrast to healthy tissue. Although neutrophil activity has been reported to be impaired following Map infection, their role in PTB pathogenesis has not been fully defined. Neutrophils are capable of releasing extracellular traps consisting of extruded DNA and proteins that immobilize and kill microorganisms, but this mechanism has not been evaluated against Map. Our main objective was to study the interaction of neutrophils with macrophages during an in vitro mycobacterial infection. For this purpose, neutrophils and macrophages from the same animal were cultured alone or together in the presence of Map or Mycobacterium bovis Bacillus-Calmette-Guérin (BCG). Extracellular trap release, mycobacteria killing as well as IL-1β and IL-8 release were assessed. Neutrophils released extracellular traps against mycobacteria when cultured alone and in the presence of macrophages without direct cell contact, but resulted inhibited in direct contact. Macrophages were extremely efficient at killing BCG, but ineffective at killing Map. In contrast, neutrophils showed similar killing rates for both mycobacteria. Co-cultures infected with Map showed the expected killing effect of combining both cell types, whereas co-cultures infected with BCG showed a potentiated killing effect beyond the expected one, indicating a potential synergistic cooperation. In both cases, IL-1β and IL-8 levels were lower in co-cultures, suggestive of a reduced inflammatory reaction. These data indicate that cooperation of both cell types can be beneficial in terms of decreasing the inflammatory reaction while the effective elimination of Map can be compromised. These results suggest that neutrophils are effective at Map killing and can exert protective mechanisms against Map that seem to fail during PTB disease after the arrival of macrophages at the infection site.