Key Points

  • Opsonization of HIT ULICs by complement facilitates FcγRIIA-dependent cellular effector function.

  • Inhibition of the proximal steps in complement activation downregulates the prothrombotic effects of HIT ULICs.

Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) is a prothrombotic disorder mediated by ultra-large immune complexes (ULICs) containing IgG antibodies to a multivalent antigen composed of platelet factor 4 (PF4) and heparin. The limitations of current anti-thrombotic therapy in HIT supports the need to identify additional pathways that may be targets for therapy. Activation of FcgRIIA by HIT ULICs initiates diverse procoagulant cellular effector functions. HIT ULICs are also known to activate complement, but the contribution of this pathway to the pathogenesis of HIT has not been studied in detail. We observed that HIT ULICs physically interact with C1q in buffer and plasma, activate complement via the classical pathway, promote co-deposition of IgG and activated C3 complement fragments (C3c) on neutrophil and monocyte cell surfaces. Complement activation by ULICs, in turn, facilitates Fcg receptor(R)-independent monocyte tissue factor expression, enhances IgG binding to the cell surface FcgRs and promotes platelet adhesion to injured endothelium. Inhibition of the proximal, but not terminal, steps in the complement pathway, abrogates monocyte tissue factor expression by HIT ULICs. Together, these studies suggest a major role for complement activation in regulating Fc-dependent effector functions of HIT ULICs, identify potential non-anticoagulant targets for therapy, and provide insights into the broader roles of complement in immune complex-mediated thrombotic disorders.

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