Background: Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an autoimmune disorder in which antiplatelet antibodies mediate accelerated platelet clearance from circulation and also inhibit platelet production, resulting in thrombocytopenia. Activation of the classical pathway (CP) of complement is associated with a variety of immune disorders involving the presence of autoantibodies. The role of the complement system in ITP is poorly understood.

Methods: Plasma samples (0.32% sodium citrate) from patients with chronic ITP (n=55) were evaluated for their ability to activate the CP of complement. The 55 patients consisted primarily of adult but also of pediatric patients with ITP, undergoing various treatment regimens. The most common included IVIG, rituximab, and especially thrombopoietic agents (eltrombopag, romiplostim). Almost all patients included in the analysis had chronic ITP, defined as ITP lasting > 12 months. The complement activating capacity (CAC) of patient plasma was evaluated with a previously described in vitro assay ( Peerschke et al., Brit J Haematol, 2009) that measures complement activation on immobilized, fixed heterologous platelets using an ELISA approach with monoclonal antibodies to C1q, C4d, iC3b, and C5b-9. CAC represents assay optical density readings normalized to reference normal plasma pool. A CAC of >1.5 was considered indicative of enhanced complement activation, based on reference ranges established for plasma from healthy volunteers. Patient CAC values were correlated with platelet count. The ability of TNT003 to block in vitro complement activation was assessed relative to an isotype matched control. TNT003 is a mouse monoclonal antibody (IgG2a) that targets the CP-serine protease C1s.

Results: A statistically significant (p=0.042) inverse correlation was noted between C4d deposition and platelet count in the 55 ITP patient samples tested. Heightened classical complement pathway activation was demonstrated in 7 of 55 patients (~13%) with ITP as evidenced by increased C4d deposition. 6 of the 7 patients with increased C4d deposition had platelet counts <100k/mcL, and 5 patients had platelet counts <50K/mcL. There was a non-significant trend for higher C4d levels on platelets and lower AIPF (absolute immature platelet fraction, equivalent to platelet reticulocytes). TNT003 (100 mcg/ml) inhibited C4 activation by 44 + 43% in ITP plasma in vitro. Inhibition of downstream complement activation, iC3b and C5b-9 deposition, was 72% + 17 % and 82% + 14% (mean + S.D.), respectively. Similar results were obtained using 10 mM EDTA, a known inhibitor of complement activation.

Conclusions: The heterogeneity of patient responses to different treatment modalities in ITP support the concept of different immune mechanisms contributing to thrombocytopenia. Our data demonstrate classical complement pathway activation in a subgroup of patients with ITP, and further present the first evidence of CP complement inhibition by a novel C1s inhibitor in this setting. Failure to completely block C4 activation in ITP plasma in vitro by either of TNT003 or EDTA, suggests the presence of preformed, circulating C4d containing complement complexes in patient plasma. The ability of TNT003 to more completely inhibit C3 activation and C5b-9 assembly downstream of C4 in the in vitro assay system is consistent with direct activation and inhibition of complement at the platelet surface. Thus, TNT003 may mitigate enhanced platelet clearance by RES via inhibition of complement mediated platelet opsonization by C3b and platelet lysis by C5b-9. Further studies are required to evaluate the impact of TNT003 on thrombocytopenia in ITP.


Peerschke:True North Therapeutics: Research Support Other. Panicker:True North Therapeutics: Employment. Bussel:True North Therapeutics: Research Support Other.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.