The VWF/ADAMTS13 axis in the antiphospholipid syndrome: ADAMTS13 antibodies and ADAMTS13 dysfunction


Dr Steven Austin, Haemostasis Research Unit, Department of Haematology, University College London, 1st Floor, 51 Chenies Mews, London WC1E 6HX, UK.


Autoantibodies to ADAMTS13 (a disintegrin-like and metalloprotease with thrombospondin type I motif, member 13) play an important role in the development of microthrombosis in thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). In severe cases of antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), microthrombosis can occur similar to that seen in TTP, suggesting possible mutual pathogenic factors. However, the role of ADAMTS13 in APS is unknown. We hypothesised that aberrations in ADAMTS13 may occur in APS and evaluated ADAMTS13 and von Willebrand factor (VWF) in 68 patients with antiphospholipid antibodies (aPA) including 52 with APS. Thirty-three (49%) had IgG anti-ADAMTS13 with 12 of these patients having reduced ADAMTS13 activity, suggesting neutralising antibodies. Low ADAMTS13 activity (median 34%) was demonstrated in 22/68 (33%), all with normal ADAMTS13 antigen levels consistent with dysfunctional ADAMTS13. Reduced ADAMTS13 activity was not secondary to elevated von Willebrand factor (VWF), or increased VWF secretion (normal VWF propeptide), although a reduced VWF clearance was noted in APS. Analysis found no associations between the ADAMTS13 abnormalities and any aPA profile or thrombotic/obstetric complications, although this study was not adequately powered to address clinical associations. Nevertheless, these findings highlight that ADAMTS13 autoantibodies and ADAMTS13 dysfunction can occur in APS, and although the clinical significance remains undetermined, ADAMTS13 dysfunction may be contributory to thrombogenesis in autoimmune conditions other than TTP.