Detection of clonal platelet antibodies in immunologically‐mediated thrombocytopenias: association with circulating clonal/oligoclonal B cells

Douglas J. Christie, Shari C. Sauro, Kyrsten D. Fairbanks, Neil E. Kay

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18 Scopus citations


Summary Aware that T and B cells in autoimmune thrombocytopenia are abnormal, including the existence of clonal B cell populations, we sought to characterize this clonal phenomenon in various immunological thrombocytopenias using platelet antibody light chain analysis, flow cytometry, Southern blot analysis, and PCR. Using a monoclonal antibody‐antigen capture ELISA, we analysed sera from 21 of 26 patients with autoimmune, alloimmune. or drug‐induced immunological thrombocytopenia for the light chain phenotypes of their platelet antibodies. Alloantibodies and drug‐dependent antibodies from four and 14 patients, respectively, were found that expressed a predominant type of light chain, suggesting that these platelet‐reactive antibodies were monoclonal or oligoclonal in nature. 14 of the 26 patients were available for light chain B cell phenotyping studies. Of these 14 patients, thrombocytopenia was due to autoimmunity in two, drug‐induced immunity in four, and alloimmunity in eight. We detected clonal populations of B cells in all 14 patients by flow cytometry. Although six of these latter patients possessed platelet antibodies with clonal characteristics, light chain phenotypes of antibodies in five patients were opposite to those of their B cells. Eight of these patients were further examined for immunoglobulin gene rearrangement using Southern and/or polymerase chain reaction analysis. In all eight patients we detected clonal or oligoclonal B cell populations. Only two of these patients had malignancies (chronic lymphocytic leukaemia) that would be expected to have detectable clonal B cells, and thus the mechanism for clonal expansion in the other six patients did not appear to he related to an obvious neoplastic process. Prior to these studies, detection of clonal B cells in thrombocytopenic patients without known malignancies was limited to individuals with autoimmune thrombocytopenia, prompting the speculation that this particular autoimmune disorder arises from B cell dysregulation, rather than from expansion of specific autoantibody producing B cell clones. In contrast, the current studies provide evidence that clonal B cells are common to patients with any form of immunologically‐mediated thrombocytopenia. Moreover, the majority of the platelet antibodies (86%) present in these disorders exhibited monoclonal characteristics in that there was an apparent restriction in light chain usage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-284
Number of pages8
JournalBritish journal of haematology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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