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Hematol J. 2001;2(5):292-9.

Von Willebrand factor-cleaving protease activity and proteolysis of von Willebrand factor in bone marrow transplant-associated thrombotic microangiopathy.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland 21231-1000, USA.



Thrombotic microangiopathy (TM) of the fulminant type occurring in patients following bone marrow transplant (BMT) has clinical manifestations that are similar to thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and hemolytic uremic syndrome, but the outcome is generally fatal despite conventional therapy. Idiopathic acquired TTP has been associated with IgG inhibitors to the cleaving protease of von Willebrand factor (vWF) in plasma. In this study, we investigated the role of the vWF protease and vWF proteolysis in the pathogenesis of BMT-associated TM of the fulminant type.


vWF antigen level, vWF multimeric pattern, and vWF metalloprotease activity were investigated in the plasma samples of six consecutive patients with acute BMT-associated TM. Histologic and immunohistochemical studies were also performed on autopsy kidney specimens from four of the patients. All six patients had the fulminant type of the disorder with a fatal outcome and none of the patients responded to plasma infusion.


The vWF-cleaving protease activity in plasma was normal in all patients. However, analysis of the vWF multimeric pattern showed a decrease of high molecular weight multimers. The decrease of large multimers may be caused by vWF-platelet binding as well as shear enhanced proteolysis of vWF. In the four patients who had an autopsy, a pattern of arteriolar thrombosis, distinct from that of TTP, was detected in the kidneys.


These findings suggest that BMT-associated TM of the fulminant type is a heterogeneous process and distinct from TTP in pathogenesis. Analysis of vWF protease and vWF multimeric distribution are valuable tools in making the distinction between BMT-associated TM and TTP.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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