Human tissue inflammation is terminated, at least in part, by the death of inflammatory neutrophils by apoptosis. The regulation of this process is therefore key to understanding and manipulating inflammation resolution. Previous data have suggested that the short-lived pro-survival Bcl-2 family protein, Mcl-1, is instrumental in determining neutrophil lifespan. However, Mcl-1 can be cleaved following caspase activity, and the possibility therefore remains that the observed fall in Mcl-1 levels is due to caspase activity downstream of caspase activation, rather than being a key event initiating apoptosis in human neutrophils. We demonstrate that apoptosis in highly purified neutrophils can be almost completely abrogated by caspase inhibition with the highly effective di-peptide caspase inhibitor, Q-VD. OPh, confirming the caspase dependence of neutrophil apoptosis. Effective caspase inhibition does not prevent the observed fall in Mcl-1 levels early in ultrapure neutrophil culture, suggesting that this fall in Mcl-1 levels is not a consequence of neutrophil apoptosis. However, at later timepoints, declines in Mcl-1 can be reversed with effective caspase inhibition, suggesting that Mcl-1 is both an upstream regulator and a downstream target of caspase activity in human neutrophils
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