Thrombopoietin (TPO), the ligand for c-mpl, stimulates proliferation of committed megakaryocytic progenitors and induces maturation of megakaryocytes. To better understand factors regulating TPO levels, we measured blood levels of TPO in patients with impaired platelet production due to aplastic anemia (AA) and with platelet destructive disorders, including idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), posttransfusion purpura (PTP), drug purpura (DP), and X-linked thrombocytopenia (XLTP). The TPO receptor capture enzyme immunoassay (EIA) used had a detection limit of integral of approximately-150 to 200 pg/mL. TPO was undetectable in 88 of 89 normal individuals. Eighteen of 19 patients with AA and a mean platelet count (MPC) of 18,000/microliters (2,000 to 61,000/microliters) had markedly elevated TPO levels (mean, 1,467 pg/mL; range, 597 to 3,834 pg/mL). Eight AA patients who responded to immunosuppressive therapy with their MPC increasing to 140,000/microliters (92,000 to 175,000/microliters) had substantial decreases in TPO (mean, 440 pg/mL; range, 193 to 771 pg/mL). Initial TPO levels did not differ significantly between responders and nonresponders. In contrast, all 21 patients with ITP and an MPC of 16,000/microliters (1,000 to 51,000 /microliters) had undetectable TPO levels, as did 6 patients with acute PTP or DP and 2 patients with XLTP. Megakaryocyte mass, reflected in the rate of platelet production, appears to be the major determinant of TPO levels in thrombocytopenic patients rather than circulating platelet levels per se. Measurement of serum TPO may be useful in differentiating thrombocytopenias due to peripheral destruction from those due to thrombopoietic failure.

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