Acute thrombocytopenia has been consistently reported following IV administration of adenoviral vectors (Ad) but the mechanism responsible for this phenomenon has not been elucidated. Thrombocytopenia appears 24 hours after IV administration of Ad and is vector dose dependent. In this study, we have assessed the potential roles of the adhesive proteins P-selectin and von Willebrand Factor (VWF) on the aggregation and clearance of platelets following virus administration. We have addressed the question of whether the thrombocytopenia is due to a direct effect of the virus on platelets or an indirect effect related to interaction of platelets with other proteins or cells modified by the virus. We assessed platelet count in a group of Balb/c and C57Bl/6 mice over 1 week period following Ad administration and performed a detailed examination of the events within the first 24 h after Ad injection, the period that precedes the appearance of thrombocytopenia. We examined the effect of Ad on expression of the platelet activation marker P-selectin and the formation of platelet leukocyte aggregates (PLA) by means of flowcytometry after incubation of adenovirus with mouse platelets in vitro, and following Ad administration in vivo. To assess the role of VWF in Ad-induced thrombocytopenia we measured plasma VWF levels one hour after injection of Ad. Further investigations involved comparison of platelet counts, platelet activation, and the formation of PLA in a group of VWF KO mice. All studies have been performed with a replication deficient E1/E3-deleted Ad 1x 1011 viral particles/mouse. Our in vitro studies have shown that Ad directly activates mouse platelets as shown by increased expression of P-selectin. The average index of platelet activation for platelets stimulated by Ad was 2519.4 compared to 128.2 for resting platelets (n=5, p<0.02). Flow cytometric analysis of CD41 (platelets) and CD45 (leucocytes) double stained positive events indicated that Ad stimulation induced PLA when compared to the unstimulated samples. Our in vivo studies have confirmed the development of significant thrombocytopenia in both Balb/c as well as C57Bl/6 WT mice (n=8, p=0.00001, n= 6, p=0.002) 24 hours following Ad administration. Significant P-selectin expression was documented in both strains (n=4,p=0.0003; n=3, p=0.0008 respectively) as well as significant PLA one hour following Ad (n=4, p=0.01; n=3, p=0.007). The VWF KO mice showed non-significant thrombocytopenia (n= 6, p=0.063) at 24 hours following Ad, significant P-selectin expression (n=3, p=0.0003), but no significant PLA formation at one hour (n=3 p=0.12) relative to pre-injection levels. Plasma VWF levels were significantly elevated in both Balb/c and C57Bl/6 WT mice one hour following administration of the virus (n= 3, p=0.02; n= 3, p= 0.001). The average plasma VWF levels were 48.1 U/mL at 1h compared to 5.7 U/mL pre injection in Balb /c mice and 85.9 U/mL compared to 6.1 U/mL in C57Bl/6 mice. These studies have shown that Ad can act as an inducer of mouse platelet activation and as a promoter for platelet-leukocyte association both in vitro and in vivo. We have demonstrated a role for Ad in stimulating VWF release from the endothelium, and have shown that VWF has a critical role in platelet activation and clearance following Ad administration. We conclude that P-selectin and VWF proteins are directly involved in interactions between endothelial cells, platelets and leukocytes, a complex interaction that can explain at least in part the mechanisms underlying Ad-mediated thrombocytopenia.

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