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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Feb 20; 93(4): 1624–1629.

Surface blebs on apoptotic cells are sites of enhanced procoagulant activity: implications for coagulation events and antigenic spread in systemic lupus erythematosus.


The restriction of phosphatidylserine (PtdSer) to the inner surface of the plasma membrane bilayer is lost early during apoptosis. Since PtdSer is a potent surface procoagulant, and since there is an increased incidence of coagulation events in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who have anti-phospholipid antibodies, we addressed whether apoptotic cells are procoagulant and whether anti-phospholipid antibodies influence this. Apoptotic HeLa cells, human endothelial cells, and a murine pre-B-cell line were markedly procoagulant in a modified Russell viper venom assay. This procoagulant effect was entirely abolished by addition of the PtdSer-binding protein, annexin V, confirming that it was PtdSer-dependent. The procoagulant effect was also abolished by addition of IgG purified from the plasma of three patients with anti-phospholipid antibody syndrome, but not IgG from normal controls. Confocal microscopy of apoptotic cells stained with fluorescein-isothiocyanate-conjugated-annexin V demonstrated (Ca2+)-dependent binding to the surface of membrane blebs o apoptotic cells, but not to intracellular membranes. Recent data indicate that the surface blebs of apoptotic cells constitute an important immunogenic particle in SLE. We propose that the PtdSer exposed on the outside of these blebs can induce the production of anti-phospholipid antibodies, which might also enhance the immunogenicity of the bleb contents. When apoptosis occurs in a microenvironment in direct contact with circulating plasma, the unique procoagulant consequences of the apoptotic surface may additionally be expressed. This might explain the increased incidence of pathological intravascular coagulation events that occur in some lupus patients who have anti-phospholipid antibodies.

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