Thrombocytopenia is a common manifestation in patients with liver cirrhosis (LC), but its underlying mechanism remains controversial. This study examined the role of anti-platelet autoimmunity in cirrhotic thrombocytopenia by determining the autoantibody response to GPIIb-IIIa, a major platelet surface autoantigen recognized by anti-platelet antibodies in patients with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Circulating B cells producing anti-GPIIb-IIIa antibodies as well as platelet-associated and plasma anti-GPIIb-IIIa antibodies were examined in 72 patients with LC, 62 patients with ITP, and 52 healthy controls. In vitro anti-GPIIb-IIIa antibody production was induced in cultures of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) by stimulation with GPIIb-IIIa. The frequency of anti-GPIIb-IIIa antibody-producing B cells in patients with LC was significantly greater than in healthy controls (10.9 ± 6.2 vs. 0.4 ± 0.3/105 PBMCs; P < .0001) and was even higher than the frequency in patients with ITP (8.2 ± 5.2; P = .007). Anti-GPIIb-IIIa antibodies in the patients with LC and ITP were mainly present on the surfaces of circulating platelets rather than in the plasma in an unbound form. Furthermore, PBMCs from patients with LC and ITP produced anti-GPIIb-IIIa antibodies on antigenic stimulation with GPIIb-IIIa in vitro, and the specific antibodies produced had the capacity to bind normal platelet surfaces. In conclusion, the similar profile of the anti-GPIIb-IIIa autoantibody response in patients with LC and ITP suggests that autoantibody-mediated platelet destruction may contribute at least in part to cirrhotic thrombocytopenia.
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