PF4/heparin ultra-large complexes activate complement and bind preferentially to B cells via CR2 (CD21).
Complement-fixed PF4/heparin complexes can be detected on circulating B cells in patients receiving heparin therapy.
Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia is a prothrombotic disorder caused by antibodies to platelet factor 4 (PF4)/heparin complexes. The mechanism that incites such prevalent anti-PF4/heparin antibody production in more than 50% of patients exposed to heparin in some clinical settings is poorly understood. To investigate early events associated with antigen exposure, we first examined the interaction of PF4/heparin complexes with cells circulating in whole blood. In healthy donors, PF4/heparin complexes bind preferentially to B cells (>90% of B cells bind to PF4/heparin in vitro) relative to neutrophils, monocytes, or T cells. Binding of PF4 to B cells is heparin dependent, and PF4/heparin complexes are found on circulating B cells from some, but not all, patients receiving heparin. Given the high proportion of B cells that bind PF4/heparin, we investigated complement as a mechanism for noncognate antigen recognition. Complement is activated by PF4/heparin complexes, co-localizes with antigen on B cells from healthy donors, and is present on antigen-positive B cells in patients receiving heparin. Binding of PF4/heparin complexes to B cells is mediated through the interaction between complement and complement receptor 2 (CR2 [CD21]). To the best of our knowledge, these are the first studies to demonstrate complement activation by PF4/heparin complexes, opsonization of PF4/heparin to B cells via CD21, and the presence of complement activation fragments on circulating B cells in some patients receiving heparin. Given the critical contribution of complement to humoral immunity, our observations provide new mechanistic insights into the immunogenicity of PF4/heparin complexes.
- Submitted April 6, 2016.
- Accepted July 7, 2016.
- © 2016 by The American Society of Hematology
To view this item, select one of the options below.
If you already have a subscription, you may gain access using your ASH username and password.
Log in through your institution
Subscribe to the Journal - Subscribe to the print and/or online journal.