Blood Cell-Bound C4d as a Marker of Complement Activation in Patients With the Antiphospholipid Syndrome

Paola Adele Lonati, Mariangela Scavone, Maria Gerosa, Maria Orietta Borghi, Francesca Pregnolato, Daniele Curreli, Gianmarco Podda, Eti Alessandra Femia, Wilma Barcellini, Marco Cattaneo, Francesco Tedesco, Pier Luigi Meroni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is a chronic and disabling condition characterized by recurrent thrombosis and miscarriages mediated by antibodies against phospholipid-binding proteins (aPL), such as beta2glycoprotein I (β2GPI). Complement is involved in APS animal models and complement deposits have been documented in placenta and thrombotic vessels despite normal serum levels. Analysis of circulating blood cells coated with C4d displays higher sensitivity than the conventional assays that measure soluble native complement components and their unstable activation products in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). As C4d-coated blood cell count has been reported to be more sensitive than serum levels of complement components and their activation products in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients, we decided to evaluate the percentage of C4d positive B lymphocytes (BC4d), erythrocytes (EC4d), and platelets (PC4d) in primary APS patients and asymptomatic aPL positive carriers as marker of complement activation in APS. We assessed by flow cytometry the percentages of BC4d, EC4d, and PC4d in primary APS (PAPS; n. 23), 8 asymptomatic aPL positive carriers, 11 APS-associated SLE (SAPS), 17 aPL positive SLE, 16 aPL negative SLE, 8 aPL negative patients with previous thrombosis, 11 immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) patients, and 26 healthy subjects. In addition, we used an in vitro model to evaluate the ability of a monoclonal anti-β2GPI antibody (MBB2) to bind to normal resting or activated platelets and fix complement. EC4d and PC4d percentages were significantly higher in PAPS and aPL carriers as well as aPL positive SLE and SAPS than in aPL negative controls. The highest values were found in PAPS and in SAPS. The EC4d and PC4d percentages were significantly correlated with serum C3/C4 and anti-β2GPI/anti-cardiolipin IgG. In vitro studies showed that MBB2 bound to activated platelets only and induced C4d deposition. The detection of the activation product C4d on circulating erythrocytes and platelets supports the role of complement activation in APS. Complement may represent a new therapeutic target for better treatment and prevention of disability of APS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number773
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2019


  • anti-phospholipid syndrome
  • beta2–glycoprotein I
  • C4d
  • complement
  • erythrocytes
  • platelets

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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