The aim of this work was to examine a possible role of clot contraction/retraction in thrombotic complications of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Using a novel automated method, we investigated kinetics of clot contraction in the blood of 51 SLE patients and 60 healthy donors. The functionality of platelets in the SLE patients was assessed using flow cytometry by expression of P-selectin and fibrinogen-binding capacity. The rate and degree of clot contraction were significantly reduced in SLE patients compared with healthy subjects, especially in the patients with higher blood levels of anti-dsDNA antibodies. The reduced platelet contractility correlated with partial refractoriness of platelets isolated from the blood of SLE patients to stimulation induced by the thrombin receptor activating peptide. To test if the anti-dsDNA autoantibodies cause continuous platelet activation, followed by exhaustion and dysfunction of the cells, we added purified exogenous anti-dsDNA autoantibodies from SLE patients to normal blood before clotting. In support of this hypothesis, the antibodies first enhanced clot contraction and then suppressed it in a time-dependent manner. Importantly, a direct correlation of clot contraction parameters with the disease severity suggests that the reduced compactness of intravascular clots and thrombi could be a pathogenic factor in SLE that may exaggerate the impaired blood flow at the site of thrombosis. In conclusion, autoantibodies in SLE can affect platelet contractility, resulting in reduced ability of clots and thrombi to shrink in volume, which increases vessel obstruction and may aggravate the course and outcomes of thrombotic complications in SLE.

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