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Blood. 1999 Jul 15;94(2):509-18.

The thrombocytopenia of Wiskott Aldrich syndrome is not related to a defect in proplatelet formation.

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  • 1INSERM U 362, PR1, Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France.


The Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome (WAS) is an X-linked hereditary disease characterized by thrombocytopenia with small platelet size, eczema, and increased susceptibility to infections. The gene responsible for WAS was recently cloned. Although the precise function of WAS protein (WASP) is unknown, it appears to play a critical role in the regulation of cytoskeletal organization. The platelet defect, resulting in thombocytopenia and small platelet size, is a consistent finding in patients with mutations in the WASP gene. However, its exact mechanism is unknown. Regarding WASP function in cytoskeletal organization, we investigated whether these platelet abnormalities could be due to a defect in proplatelet formation or in megakaryocyte (MK) migration. CD34(+) cells were isolated from blood and/or marrow of 14 WAS patients and five patients with hereditary X-linked thrombocytopenia (XLT) and cultured in serum-free liquid medium containing recombinant human Mpl-L (PEG-rHuMGDF) and stem-cell factor (SCF) to study in vitro megakaryocytopoiesis. In all cases, under an inverted microscope, normal MK differentiation and proplatelet formation were observed. At the ultrastructural level, there was also no abnormality in MK maturation, and normal filamentous MK were present. Moreover, the in vitro produced platelets had a normal size, while peripheral blood platelets of the same patients exhibited an abnormally small size. However, despite this normal platelet production, we observed that F-actin distribution was abnormal in MKs from WAS patients. Indeed, F-actin was regularly and linearly distributed under the cytoplasmic membrane in normal MKs, but it was found concentrated in the center of the WAS MKs. After adhesion, normal MKs extended very long filopodia in which WASP could be detected. In contrast, MKs from WAS patients showed shorter and less numerous filopodia. However, despite this abnormal filopodia formation, MKs from WAS patients normally migrated in response to stroma-derived factor-1alpha (SDF-1alpha), and actin normally polymerized after SDF-1alpha or thrombin stimulation. These results suggest that the platelet defect in WAS patients is not due to abnormal platelet production, but instead to cytoskeletal changes occuring in platelets during circulation.

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