Refereed journal article or data article (A1)

COVID-19 adenovirus vaccine triggers antibodies against PF4 complexes to activate complement and platelets

List of Authors: Pitkänen Hanna H., Jouppila Annukka, Helin Tuukka, Dulipati Vinaya, Kotimaa Juha, Meri Seppo, Kantele Anu, Jalkanen Pinja, Julkunen Ilkka, Lassila Riitta

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd

Publication year: 2021

Journal: Thrombosis Research

Journal name in source: Thrombosis Research

Volume number: 208

eISSN: 1879-2472



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Vaccine-induced thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) is a rare coagulation disorder reported after administration of COVID-19 adenovirus-vectored vaccines. VITT is mediated by anti-platelet factor 4 (PF4) antibodies activating platelets through the Fcγ-receptor II (FcγRII), and it is associated with strong fibrin turnover. The complement system is involved in several other immunothrombotic entities, but its impact on VITT is not established.


To assess antibodies in interaction with the activation of platelets and complement triggered by VITT.


Antibodies against adenovirus type 2 hexon protein, ChAdOx1 adenoviral vector-specific IgG and PF4 were analyzed by enzyme immunoassays from VITT patients (n = 5). The EDTA plasma samples of the patients and controls were used to measure both terminal complement complexes (TCC) by ELISA and aggregation of healthy donor platelets. We studied the effects of human immunoglobulin (IVIG) and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitor (GPIIb/IIIa) on spontaneous and collagen-induced platelet aggregation supplemented with VITT plasma.


None of the patients had experienced a COVID-19 infection. Antibody analyses confirmed the immunogenicity of the adenovirus-vectored ChAdOx1 vaccine. Moreover, VITT plasma had anti-PF4 antibodies and elevated TCC levels as a sign of complement activation. In isolated healthy donor platelets, VITT patient plasma caused marked, spontaneous aggregation of platelets, which was abolished by eptifibatide and high-dose therapeutic IVIG.


Our findings suggest that VITT is triggered by antibodies against adenovirus vector and PF4-polyanion complexes which strongly co-activate complement and platelets. The spontaneous platelet aggregation was suppressed by IVIG or eptifibatide, indicating that besides FcγRII, also GPIIb/IIIa receptor exerts platelet procoagulant role in VITT.

Last updated on 2022-10-02 at 11:20