Trans-epithelial migration is essential for neutrophil activation during RSV infection

Elisabeth Robinson, Jenny Amanda Herbert, Machaela Palor, Luo Ren, Isobel Larken, Alisha Patel, Dale Moulding, Mario Cortina-Borja, Rosalind Louise Smyth, Claire Mary Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recruitment of neutrophils to the infected airway occurs early following respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, and high numbers of activated neutrophils in the airway and blood are associated with the development of severe disease. The aim of this study was to investigate whether trans-epithelial migration is sufficient and necessary for neutrophil activation during RSV infection. Here, we used flow cytometry and novel live-cell fluorescent microscopy to track neutrophil movement during trans-epithelial migration and measure the expression of key activation markers in a human model of RSV infection. We found that when migration occurred, neutrophil expression of CD11b, CD62L, CD64, NE, and MPO increased. However, the same increase did not occur on basolateral neutrophils when neutrophils were prevented from migrating, suggesting that activated neutrophils reverse migrate from the airway to the bloodstream side, as has been suggested by clinical observations. We then combined our findings with the temporal and spatial profiling and suggest 3 initial phases of neutrophil recruitment and behavior in the airways during RSV infection; (1) initial chemotaxis; (2) neutrophil activation and reverse migration; and (3) amplified chemotaxis and clustering, all of which occur within 20 min. This work and the novel outputs could be used to develop therapeutics and provide new insight into how neutrophil activation and a dysregulated neutrophil response to RSV mediates disease severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-364
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of leukocyte biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Mar 2023


  • Humans
  • Neutrophil Activation
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections/metabolism
  • Respiratory System
  • Neutrophils/metabolism
  • Neutrophil Infiltration


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