Coordinated programmes of resolution are thought to initiate early after an inflammatory response begins, actively terminating leucocyte recruitment, allowing their demise via apoptosis and their clearance by phagocytosis. In this review we describe an event that could be implicated in the resolution of inflammation, i.e. the establishment of a refractory state in human neutrophils that had phagocytosed apoptotic cells. Adherent neutrophils challenged with apoptotic cells generate neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), filaments of decondensed chromatin decorated with bioactive molecules that are involved in the capture of various microbes and in persistent sterile inflammation. In contrast, neutrophils that had previously phagocytosed apoptotic cells lose their capacity to up-regulate β2 integrins and to respond to activating stimuli that induce NET generation, such as interleukin (IL)-8. A defective regulation of NET generation might contribute to the persistent inflammation and tissue injury in diseases in which the clearance of apoptotic cells is jeopardized, including systemic lupus erythematosus and anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis.