Neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (NAIT) can cause severe complications such as intrauterine death or intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) in the newborn, and is caused by the transfer of platelet-depleting antibodies from the mother to the fetus during pregnancy. These antibodies react with allogeneic epitopes, most commonly human platelet antigen (HPA) 1a, when present on fetal platelets. Although these responses are thought to be a result of a T cell-dependent immune response, HPA 1a specific T cells have not yet been isolated. To examine whether HPA 1a specific T cells could be detected and isolated, we collected PBMC post delivery from an HPA 1a negative mother who gave birth to an HPA 1a positive neonate suffering from severe thrombocytopenia (platelet count <50×109/L). The cells were stimulated with HPA 1a peptides (20aa) in long term cultures supplemented with IL-7 and IL-2, and subsequently, IL-15. After 4 weeks in culture these cells were labeled with CFSE dye and restimulated with HPA 1a or control peptides. After additional 2 weeks in culture supplemented with IL-2 and IL-15, specific proliferative responses were detectable by CFSE dye dilution by flow cytometry. The cells were cloned by fluorescent-activated cell sorting (FACS) and expanded in numbers with anti-CD3 stimulation in the presence of irradiated allogeneic PBMC and IL-2. The resulting clonal T cell lines were characterized in proliferation assays, ELISPOT assays and phenotyped by flow cytometry. All clones were CD3+, CD4+ and CD19, and the majority of the clones proliferated and secreted cytokines in response to stimulation with HPA 1a peptides, but not control peptides. In ELISPOT assays, peptide-pulsed antigen-presenting cells were required for T cell detection. These clonal HPA 1a specific CD4+ T cell lines represent formal evidence of the existence of HPA 1a specific T cell responses related to NAIT and will serve as important tools for further characterization of maternal immune responses associated with NAIT.

Author notes

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.