Neutrophils form neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), which are involved in the pathogenesis of ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). Recent reports suggest that platelets stimulated via toll-like receptor (TLR) pathways can induce NETs formation. However, the mechanism underlying the involvement of platelets in NETs formation in AAV is unknown. We investigated the role of platelets in the pathogenesis of AAV. Platelets from AAV patients and healthy controls (HCs) were co-cultured with peripheral neutrophils, and NETs formation was visualized and quantified. The expression levels of TLRs on platelets were examined by flow cytometry. Platelets were treated with a TLR agonist, platelet-derived humoral factor, CXCL4 (platelet factor 4: PF4), and/or anti-CXCL4 antibody to investigate the effects of TLR–CXCL4 signaling on NETs formation. Platelets from AAV significantly upregulated NETs formation in vitro. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that the proportion of TLR9 positive platelets was significantly higher in AAV than HCs. CXCL4 released from TLR9 agonist-stimulated platelets was significantly enhanced in AAV, which subsequently increased NETs formation. Further, neutralizing anti-CXCL4 antibody significantly inhibited NETs formation enhanced by platelets from AAV. TLR9 signaling and CXCL4 release underlie the key role that platelets play in NETs formation in the pathogenesis of AAV.
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