Discovery and characterization of 2 novel subpopulations of aPS/PT antibodies in patients at high risk of thrombosis

Mathivanan Chinnaraj, William Planer, Vittorio Pengo and Nicola Pozzi

Key Points

  • Type I and II are 2 novel subpopulations of immunoglobulin G aPS/PT with different mechanisms of prothrombin recognition and function.

  • APS patients can be classified into 2 groups, A and B, according to the presence of type I and II aPS/PT autoantibodies.


Anti-phosphatidylserine/prothrombin (aPS/PT) antibodies are often detected in patients with antiphospholipid syndrome (APS), but how aPS/PT engage prothrombin at the molecular level remains unknown. Here, the antigenic determinants of immunoglobulin G aPS/PT were investigated in 24 triple-positive APS patients at high risk of thrombosis by using prothrombin mutants biochemically trapped in closed and open conformations, and relevant fragments spanning the entire length of prothrombin. Two novel unexpected findings emerged from these studies. First, we discovered that some aPS/PT are unique among other anti-prothrombin antibodies insofar as they efficiently recognize prothrombin in solution after a conformational change requiring exposure of fragment-1 to the solvent. Second, we identified and characterized 2 previously unknown subpopulations of aPS/PT, namely type I and type II, which engage fragment-1 of prothrombin at different epitopes and with different mechanisms. Type I target a discontinuous density-dependent epitope, whereas type II engage the C-terminal portion of the Gla-domain, which remains available for binding even when prothrombin is bound to the phospholipids. Based on these findings, APS patients positive for aPS/PT were classified into 2 groups, group A and group B, according to their autoantibody profile. Group A contains mostly type I antibodies whereas group B contains both type I and type II antibodies. In conclusion, this study offers a first encouraging step toward unveiling the heterogeneity of anti-prothrombin antibodies in correlation with thrombosis, shedding new light on the mechanisms of antigen–autoantibody recognition in APS.

  • Submitted January 2, 2019.
  • Accepted May 1, 2019.
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