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Keywords:

  • thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura;
  • endothelial activation;
  • apoptosis;
  • thrombosis;
  • endothelial microparticles

Endothelial injury is believed to be a key initiating event in the pathogenesis of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), leading to platelet activation and formation of platelet-rich thrombi in microvasculature. However, the nature of endothelial injury in TTP is poorly defined and clinical assays to rapidly and reliably monitor endothelial damage are not readily available. Using flow cytometry, we measured endothelial microparticles (EMPs) generated from cultured renal and brain microvascular endothelial cells (MVECs) during activation and apoptosis, and evaluated the effect of TTP plasma on them. EMPs were measured using positivity for monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) CD31 and CD51, and their procoagulant activity was assessed using a Russell viper venom assay. Both cell lines generated procoagulant EMPs when cultured with inducers of activation (tumour necrosis factor alpha; TNF-α) or apoptosis (mitomycin C). TTP plasma induced a five- to sixfold increase of EMP generation and a two- to threefold increase of procoagulant activity in cultured brain and renal MVECs. TTP plasma induced a threefold and 13-fold increase of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) expression, respectively, on renal MVECs. Procoagulant activity tended to parallel EMP numbers. The effect of TTP plasma on cell viability was similar to that of TNF-α, implying that it induced activation rather than apoptosis. Control plasma and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) plasma had little effect. In the clinical study, EMP assay of blood from acute TTP patients showed levels markedly elevated compared with normal controls, but values returned to normal in remission. In conclusion, TTP plasma activated and induced injury to MVECs in culture, judged by production of EMP and expression of activation markers. Released procoagulant EMP may play a role in the pathogenesis of TTP. Assay of EMP may be a useful marker of disease activity and endothelial injury in TTP and possibly other thrombotic disorders.