Desialylation of platelets induced by Von Willebrand Factor is a novel mechanism of platelet clearance in dengue

Silvita Fitri Riswari , Rahajeng N. Tunjungputri , Vesla Kullaya , Fadel M. Garishah, Gloria S. R. Utari, Nur Farhanah, Gijs J. Overheul, Bachti Alisjahbana, M. Hussein Gasem, Rolf T. Urbanus, Philip. G. de Groot, Dirk J. Lefeber, Ronald P. van Rij, Andre van der Ven, Quirijn de Mast
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Thrombocytopenia and platelet dysfunction are commonly observed in patients with dengue virus (DENV) infection and may contribute to complications such as bleeding and plasma leakage. The etiology of dengue-associated thrombocytopenia is multifactorial and includes increased platelet clearance. The binding of the coagulation protein von Willebrand factor (VWF) to the platelet membrane and removal of sialic acid (desialylation) are two well-known mechanisms of platelet clearance, but whether these conditions also contribute to thrombocytopenia in dengue infection is unknown. In two observational cohort studies in Bandung and Jepara, Indonesia, we show that adult patients with dengue not only had higher plasma concentrations of plasma VWF antigen and active VWF, but that circulating platelets had also bound more VWF to their membrane. The amount of platelet-VWF binding correlated well with platelet count. Furthermore, sialic acid levels in dengue patients were significantly reduced as assessed by the binding of Sambucus nigra lectin (SNA) and Maackia amurensis lectin II (MAL-II) to platelets. Sialic acid on the platelet membrane is neuraminidase-labile, but dengue virus has no known neuraminidase activity. Indeed, no detectable activity of neuraminidase was present in plasma of dengue patients and no desialylation was found of plasma transferrin. Platelet sialylation was also not altered by in vitro exposure of platelets to DENV nonstructural protein 1 or cultured DENV. In contrast, induction of binding of VWF to glycoprotein 1b on platelets using the VWF-activating protein ristocetin resulted in the removal of platelet sialic acid by translocation of platelet neuraminidase to the platelet surface. The neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir reduced VWF-induced platelet desialylation. Our data demonstrate that excessive binding of VWF to platelets in dengue results in neuraminidase-mediated platelet desialylation and platelet clearance. Oseltamivir might be a novel treatment option for severe thrombocytopenia in dengue infection.

Author summary

Dengue is the most common arbovirus infection in the world. A decrease in the number of blood platelets is an almost universal finding in severe dengue. Binding of the coagulation protein von Willebrand factor (VWF) and loss of sialic acid residues from the platelet membrane are two main mechanisms of clearance of senescent platelets under non-pathological conditions. Here, we show that platelets from patients with acute dengue have bound more VWF and have lost sialic acid from their membrane. Sialic acid can be cleaved by the enzyme neuraminidase. We show that neuraminidase activity in the plasma is not increased and that neither dengue virus itself nor nonstructural protein 1, a protein secreted by dengue virus, cleave sialic acid from the platelet membrane. In contrast, binding of VWF to platelets results in translocation of neuraminidase to the platelet membrane and subsequent cleavage of sialic acid. This process could be inhibited by the neuraminidase inhibitor oseltamivir, a commonly used anti-influenza drug. Altogether, our results indicate that VWF binding to platelets is increased in dengue infection, leading to the removal of sialic acid and platelet clearance. Oseltamivir may prevent this process and thus represent a novel treatment option for low platelet numbers in dengue infection.