Bernard-Soulier syndrome (BSS) is an extremely rare inherited bleeding disorder characterized by a defect of the GPIb/IX/V complex, which is essential for hemostasis, as the GPIbα subunit binds to subendothelial von Willebrand factor. Since the identification of the first mutation in 1990, almost one hundred cases carrying mutations in the GP1BA, GP1BB, and GP9 genes have been described. Most of the mutations prevent the coordinated association of the complex or binding to the von Willebrand factor. BSS is usually transmitted as a recessive trait with giant platelets and severe bleeding tendency. However, there are families with a dominant mild form, in which the affected individuals have only moderate macrothrombocytopenia and bleeding tendency.
A correct definition of the clinical and laboratory features, together with accurate genotype/ phenotype correlation studies, remains essential for understanding the molecular basis of the disease and managing patients appropriately. Moreover, it is important to understand the variability of clinical manifestations. Since BSS is rare with an estimated prevalence of 1:1,000,000, an International Consortium has recently been established to collect a large series of cases and families worldwide.
At present, the Consortium has been compiling data from 165 unrelated families, of which 50% have not been previously described. In this cohort, the molecular genetic testing reveals more than 30 novel mutations, confirming the wide spectrum of alterations responsible for the disease. Data from 65 unrelated families (69 patients) mainly from France, Italy and Japan show that 23 have mutations in GP9 and 29 in GP1BB. In the remaining 13 families, the defective gene is GP1BA. In agreement with the view that BSS is an extremely rare disease, 53 probands carried homozygous mutations, 10 are compound heterozygous, and 2 hemizygous because of a 22q11 deletion of the DiGeorge syndrome.
The mean age of patients at diagnosis was 18 years (range 0–75 years) of which 27 were males and 38 females. Misdiagnosis of autoimmune thrombocytopenia was frequent and 26 patients were previously treated with steroids, intravenous immunoglobulins and/or splenectomy. Except two Japanese cases without any bleeding manifestations, patients presented with a variable bleeding diathesis measured by the World health Organization bleeding scale: grades 1, 2, 3 and 4 in 9, 18, 19 and 10 patients, respectively.
The mean platelet count was 64×109/L (range 24–130) as determined by microscopy. In contrast, using a cell counter, thrombocytopenia was more severe (45×109/L; range 5–125). The mean platelet mean diameter was larger than in controls and varied from 2.9 to 7.5 mm. Ristocetin-induced platelet agglutination was absent or lower than 22% of normal response in all patients.
Flow cytometry revealed a defective expression of the GPIb/IX/V expression in all patients. Correlating between expression data and gene affected, we found that the expression of GP1ba was often undetectable in patients with GP1BA mutations whereas it was higher, 8% and 17%, in patients with mutations of GP1BB and GP9, respectively. Instead, the GPIX mean level was 14%, 8% and 25% in patients with GP9, GP1BB and GP1BA mutations. The expression of GPV was higher than that of the other subunits, being more than 30% regardless of which gene was mutated.
This is the largest cohort of BSS patients characterized to date. These patients together with the other 100 cases not yet included in the BSS database will enable correlations of the molecular genetic defects, receptor expression and clinical manifestations observed in BSS patients.
Zieger:CSL Behring Hattersheim: Research Funding.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.
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