Severe deficiency of the von Willebrand factor (VWF)-cleaving protease ADAMTS13 can lead to thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a disease associated with the widespread formation of platelet-rich thrombi in many organs. Autoantibodies that inactivate ADAMTS13 are the most frequent cause of acquired TTP. Little is known about epitope specificity and reactivity of anti-ADAMTS13 antibodies. In this study, a series of ADAMTS13 domains were expressed in Escherichia coli, and the reactivity of purified recombinant fragments with anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies from 25 patients with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency was evaluated in vitro. All TTP plasmas contained antibodies directed against the cysteine-rich spacer (cys-rich/spacer) domain of ADAMTS13. In the plasma of 3 patients, antibodies were detected that reacted exclusively with the cys-rich/spacer domain, underscoring the importance of this region for functional activity of ADAMTS13. In 64% of the plasmas, antibodies reacted with the 2 CUB domains, and in 56% they reacted with the isolated first thrombospondin type 1 (TSP-1) repeat and with the compound fragment consisting of the catalytic, the disintegrin-like, and the TSP1-1 domain. Less frequently, in 28% of the plasmas, antibodies reacted with the TSP1 repeats 2 to 8. Unexpectedly, antibodies reacted with the propeptide region in 20% of the plasmas. In conclusion, this study shows that even though anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies react with multiple domains of the protease, the cys-rich/spacer domain is consistently involved in antibody reactivity.
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