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J Immunol. 1996 Sep 1;157(5):2201-8.

Anti-phospholipid autoantibodies bind to apoptotic, but not viable, thymocytes in a beta 2-glycoprotein I-dependent manner.

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  • 1Evans Memorial Department of Clinical Research, Boston University Medical Center Hospital, MA 02118, USA.


Anti-phospholipid autoantibodies (aPL) are associated with a clinical syndrome of hypercoagulability, thrombocytopenia, and fetal loss. Several groups have shown that the in vitro target of many aPL is not a pure phospholipid Ag, but is either a complex between anionic phospholipid and the plasma protein beta2-glycoprotein I (beta 2GPI) or the protein beta 2GPI alone. Anionic phospholipids are normally absent from the extracellular surface of cell membranes but redistribute from the inner to the outer leaflet during apoptosis. We show that aPL bind specifically to apoptotic, but not viable, thymocytes, and that binding is dependent upon the presence of beta 2GPI. Moreover, we show that beta 2GPI binds selectively to the surface of apoptotic thymocytes to generate an epitope for antiphospholipid autoantibodies. These findings suggest that apoptotic cells may be the natural immunogen and/or target for aPL. Moreover, we propose that the interaction of circulating beta 2GPI with redistributed anionic phospholipid may itself generate a novel ligand by which apoptotic cells are recognized directly for phagocytic clearance.

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