Background:Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is a common bleeding disorder caused primarily by autoantibodies against platelet GPIIbIIIa (70-80%) and/or GPIb-complex (20-40%). Current theory suggests antibody-mediated platelet destruction occurs in the spleen, via macrophages through Fc-FcγR interactions. However, evidence from us and others demonstrated that anti-GPIbα, but not anti-GPIIbIIIa, can induce thrombocytopenia via an Fc-independent pathway, which is resistant to intravenous IgG (IVIG) therapy in murine ITP models (Blood 2006) and subsequent IVIG studies in human ITP patients, including our recent large patient cohort study (JTH 2014). This suggests that binding of anti-GPIbα antibodies may induce platelet clearance through a presently unidentified mechanism different than that of anti-GPIIbIIIa.

Methods: We developed unique mouse anti-mouse monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) in GPIIIa-/- or GPIba-/- mice, which also recognize GPIbα and GPIIbIIIa of different species including human. Flow cytometry, immunofluorescence, and western blotting were used to evaluate whether these mAbs induced platelet activation, neuraminidase-1 translocation and desialylation of the heavily glycosylated GPIbα in the presence of sialidase inhibitor N-acetyl-2,3-dehydro-2-deoxy neuraminic acid (DANA). These experiments were repeated with human platelets and human ITP patient plasma.

We further investigated the effects of anti-GPIbα antibodies on platelet activation, desialylation and clearance in vivo; BALB/c mice were injected with anti-GPIbα or anti-GPIIbIIIa mAbs and following, platelet activation and desialylation were measured by flow cytometry. Hepatocytic Ashwell-Morell receptor (AMR) mediated anti-GPIbα platelet clearance in the liver was examined using immunohistochemistry or blocking the AMR with asialofetuin in both wild-type and macrophage depleted mice. Therapeutic administration of DANA in a murine ITP model assessed the significance of Fc-independent anti-GPIbα mediated platelet clearance in ITP.

Results and Discussion: We found that anti-GPIbα, but not anti-GPIIbIIIa antibodies, induced significant P-selectin expression, JON/A binding, neuraminidase-1 translocation and desialylation in murine platelets. Interestingly, certain human platelets were activated (P-selectin expression) and desialylated in the presence of both anti-GPIbα and anti-GPIIbIIIa mAbs or ITP patient plasma. However, we demonstrate that the anti-GPIIbIIIa antibody mediated platelet effects are dependent on the FcγRIIa present exclusively on human platelets as FcγRII blocker IV.3 completely attenuated the response. In contrast, IV.3 had little effect on anti-GPIbα mediated platelet activation or desialylation. Anti-GPIbα Fab fragments and platelet signal pathway inhibitors demonstrate that anti-GPIbα mediated platelet activation and desialylation are consequences of GPIbα cross linking and are reinforced by a positive feedback loop. In vivo, we found significant increases in P-selectin and desialylation in anti-GPIbα injected mice, independent of IgG subclass. A significant role for the hepatic AMR in the clearance of deglycosylated platelets was observed; particularly in macrophage depleted mice whereby, although anti-GPIIbIIIa mediated platelet clearance was completely attenuated, anti-GPIbα mediated platelets clearance still occurred, but was completely rescued with asialofetuin. Immunohistochemistry revealed significant co-localization of anti-GPIbα opsonized platelets with AMR. These suggest the AMR is the dominant Fc-independent anti-GPIbα mediated platelet clearance pathway in the absence of macrophages. Remarkably, sialidase inhibitor DANA ameliorated anti-GPIbα mediated thrombocytopenia in mice. Thus, we demonstrate for the first time that anti-GPIbα antibodies induce platelet activation leading to GPIbα desialyation and platelet clearance via a novel Fc-independent pathway: the hepatic AMR. Our data also suggested that some anti-GPIIbIIIa autoantibodies in human patients may also induce platelet activation and desialylation via the platelet FcR signaling pathway. These findings may lead to novel therapeutic regimens including designating desialylation as a potential diagnostic biomarker and therapeutic target in the treatment of both anti-GPIIbIIIa and anti-GPIbα mediated and/or refractory ITP.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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