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Keywords:

  • autoimmune disease;
  • immune thrombocytopenia;
  • platelets;
  • splenectomy;
  • T cells

SUMMARY

In recent years, a pathophysiological role for T cells in immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) has been established. We applied cDNA size distribution analysis of the T cell receptor (TCR) β-variable (VB) complementarity-determining region 3 (CDR3) in order to investigate T cell repertoire diversity among immune thrombocytopenia patients who had either responded or not responded to splenectomy, and compared them to normal controls. ITP patients who had had a durable platelet response to splenectomy showed a mean 2·8 ± 2·1 abnormal CDR3 size patterns per patient, similar to healthy volunteers (2·9 ± 2·0 abnormal CDR3 size patterns). In contrast, patients unresponsive to splenectomy demonstrated evidence of significantly more clonal T cell expansions than patients who had responded to splenectomy or controls (11·3 ± 3·3 abnormal CDR3 size patterns per patient; P < 0·001). Of the VB subfamilies analysed, VB3 and VB15 correlated with response or non-response to splenectomy, each demonstrating oligoclonality in non-responding patients (P < 0·05). These findings suggest that removal of the spleen may lead directly or indirectly to reductions in T cell clonal expansions in responders, or that the extent of T cell clonality impacts responsiveness to splenectomy in patients with ITP.