The atypical small GTPase GEM/Kir is a negative regulator of the NADPH oxidase and NETs production through macroautophagy

Jennifer L. Johnson, Mahalakshmi Ramadass, Farhana Rahman, Elsa Meneses-Salas, Nadia R. Zgajnar, Raquel Carvalho Gontijo, Jinzhong Zhang, William B. Kiosses, Yanfang Peipei Zhu, Catherine C. Hedrick, Marta Perego, Jenny E. Gunton, Kersi Pestonjamasp, Gennaro Napolitano, Sergio D. Catz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Despite the important function of neutrophils in the eradication of infections and induction of inflammation, the molecular mechanisms regulating the activation and termination of the neutrophil immune response is not well understood. Here, the function of the small GTPase from the RGK family, Gem, is characterized as a negative regulator of the NADPH oxidase through autophagy regulation. Gem knockout (Gem KO) neutrophils show increased NADPH oxidase activation and increased production of extracellular and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS). Enhanced ROS production in Gem KO neutrophils was associated with increased NADPH oxidase complex-assembly as determined by quantitative super-resolution microscopy, but normal exocytosis of gelatinase and azurophilic granules. Gem-deficiency was associated with increased basal autophagosomes and autolysosome numbers but decreased autophagic flux under phorbol ester-induced conditions. Neutrophil stimulation triggered the localization of the NADPH oxidase subunits p22phox and p47phox at LC3-positive structures suggesting that the assembled NADPH oxidase complex is recruited to autophagosomes, which was significantly increased in Gem KO neutrophils. Prevention of new autophagosome formation by treatment with SAR405 increased ROS production while induction of autophagy by Torin-1 decreased ROS production in Gem KO neutrophils, and also in wild-type neutrophils, suggesting that macroautophagy contributes to the termination of NADPH oxidase activity. Autophagy inhibition decreased NETs formation independently of enhanced ROS production. NETs production, which was significantly increased in Gem-deficient neutrophils, was decreased by inhibition of both autophagy and calmodulin, a known GEM interactor. Intracellular ROS production was increased in Gem KO neutrophils challenged with live Gram-negative bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa or Salmonella Typhimurium, but phagocytosis was not affected in Gem-deficient cells. In vivo analysis in a model of Salmonella Typhimurium infection indicates that Gem-deficiency provides a genetic advantage manifested as a moderate increased in survival to infections. Altogether, the data suggest that Gem-deficiency leads to the enhancement of the neutrophil innate immune response by increasing NADPH oxidase assembly and NETs production and that macroautophagy differentially regulates ROS and NETs in neutrophils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)629-649
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Leukocyte Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • NADPH oxidase
  • NETs
  • autophagy
  • inflammation
  • innate immunity
  • small GTPase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Cell Biology


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