We developed a thrombolytic fusion protein that targets VWF for plasmin-dependent degradation of fibrin-poor microthrombi.
This strategy is superior to blockade of platelet-VWF interactions in a preclinical mouse model for microvascular thrombosis.
Thrombotic microangiopathies are hallmarked by attacks of disseminated microvascular thrombosis. In thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), this is caused by a rise in thrombogenic ultra-large von Willebrand factor (VWF) multimers because of ADAMTS13 deficiency. We previously reported that systemic plasminogen activation is therapeutic in a TTP mouse model. In contrast to its natural activators (i.e. tPA and uPA), plasminogen can directly bind to VWF. For optimal efficacy and safety, we aimed to focus and accelerate plasminogen activation at sites of microvascular occlusion. We here describe the development and characterization of Microlyse, a fusion protein consisting of a high-affinity VHH targeting the CT/CK domain of VWF and the protease domain of uPA, for localized plasminogen activation on microthrombi. Microlyse triggers targeted destruction of platelet-VWF complexes by plasmin on activated endothelial cells and in agglutination studies. At equal molar concentrations, Microlyse degrades microthrombi 7-fold more rapidly than blockade of platelet-VWF interactions with a bivalent humanized VHH (caplacizumab*). Finally, Microlyse attenuates thrombocytopenia and tissue damage (reflected by increased plasma lactate dehydrogenase activity, as well as PAI-1 and fibrinogen levels) more efficiently than caplacizumab* in an ADAMTS13-/- mouse model of TTP, without affecting hemostasis in a tail-clip bleeding model. These findings show that targeted thrombolysis of VWF by Microlyse is an effective strategy for the treatment of TTP and might hold value for other forms of VWF-driven thrombotic disease.