Published time: September 05, 2020
Authors: Karina Althaus, Irene Marini, Jan Zlamal, Lisann Pelzl, Helene Haeberle, Martin Mehrlaender, Stefanie Hammer, Harald Schulze, Michael Bitzer, Nisar Malek, Dominik Rath, Hans Boesmueller, Bernard Nieswandt, Meinrad Gawaz, Tamam Bakchoul, Peter Rosenberger
The pathophysiology of COVID-19 associated thrombosis seems to be multifactorial, involving interplay between cellular and plasmatic elements of the hemostasis. We hypothesized that COVID-19 is accompanied by platelet apoptosis with subsequent alteration of the coagulation system. We investigated depolarization of mitochondrial inner transmembrane potential (ΔΨm), cytosolic calcium (Ca2+) concentration, and phosphatidylserine (PS) externalization by flow cytometry. Platelets from intensive care unit (ICU) COVID-19 patients (n=21) showed higher ΔΨm depolarization, cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and PS externalization, compared to healthy controls (n=18) and COVID-19 non-ICU patients (n=4). Moreover significant higher cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and PS was observed compared to septic ICU control group (ICU control). In ICU control group (n=5; non-COVID-19 ICU) cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and PS externalization was comparable to healthy control, with an increase in ΔΨm depolarization. Sera from ICU COVID-19 patients induced significant increase in apoptosis markers (ΔΨm depolarization, cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and PS externalization) compared to healthy volunteer and septic ICU control. Interestingly, immunoglobulin G (IgG) fractions from COVID-19 patients induced an Fc gamma receptor IIA dependent platelet apoptosis (ΔΨm depolarization, cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and PS externalization). Enhanced PS externalization in platelets from ICU COVID-19 patients was associated with increased sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) score (r=0.5635) and D-Dimer (r=0.4473). Most importantly, patients with thrombosis had significantly higher PS externalization compared to those without. The strong correlations between apoptosis markers and increased D-Dimer levels as well as the incidence of thrombosis may indicate that antibody-mediated platelet apoptosis potentially contributes to sustained increased thromboembolic risk in ICU COVID-19 patients.
Severe COVID-19 infection is associated with increased antibody-mediated platelet apoptosis