Severe ADAMTS13 deficiency in adult idiopathic thrombotic microangiopathies defines a subset of patients characterized by various autoimmune manifestations, lower platelet count, and mild renal involvement

Medicine (Baltimore). 2004 Jul;83(4):233-244. doi: 10.1097/


The significance of ADAMTS13 deficiency in adult thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA) remains controversial. In an attempt to define the characteristics of adult TMA with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency, we determined 2 groups of patients on the basis of ADAMTS13 activity (undetectable or detectable). Clinical presentation, laboratory values, autoimmune manifestations, and outcome were compared between the groups. Patients were included retrospectively from 12 centers. All fulfilled the diagnosis criteria of TMA. Patients with a history of transplantation, cancer and chemotherapy, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stage C human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection were not included. Forty-six patients were included. Thirty-one patients had an undetectable ADAMTS13 activity (<5%), and the remaining 15 patients had ADAMTS13 activity of >25%. Severe ADAMTS13 deficiency was associated with a plasmatic inhibitor in 17 cases (55%), suggesting an immune-mediated mechanism. Patients with undetectable ADAMTS13 were more frequently of Afro-Caribbean origin than patients with detectable ADAMTS13 activity (48.4% vs 13.3%, respectively; p = 0.03). As opposed to patients with detectable ADAMTS13 activity, patients with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency displayed various autoimmune manifestations that consisted of nondestructive polyarthritis (4 cases) associated in 1 case with malar rash and extramembranous glomerulonephritis, discoid lupus (3 cases), and autoimmune endocrinopathies, Raynaud phenomenon, and sarcoidosis-like disease (1 case each). In patients with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency, antinuclear antibodies, anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies, and anticardiolipin antibodies were positive in 22 (71%) cases, 3 (9.7%) cases, and 1 (3.2%) case, respectively. One patient fulfilled the criteria for the diagnosis of systemic lupus erythematosus. During follow-up, 1 patient with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency developed antinuclear antibodies, and 3 others developed anti-double-stranded DNA antibodies, in association with neurologic manifestations and anticardiolipin antibodies in 1 case. Patients with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency also had a lower platelet count (12 x 10(9)/L; range, 2-69 x 10(9)/L) and less severe renal failure (estimated glomerular filtration rate: 78 mL/min; range, 9-157 mL/min) than patients with detectable ADAMTS13 activity (49.5 x 10(9)/L; range, 6-103 x 10(9)/L; p = 0.0004, and 15.8 mL/min; range, 5.6-80 mL/min; p < 0.0001, respectively). End-stage renal failure occurred in 1 patient with severe ADAMTS13 deficiency and in 3 patients with detectable ADAMTS13 activity (3.2% vs 21.4%, respectively; p = 0.08). Flare-up and relapse episodes and survival were comparable between the groups. Taken together, these data indicate that adult idiopathic thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, as defined by severe ADAMTS13 deficiency, may occur preferentially in a particular ethnic group, and is characterized by severe thrombocytopenia, mild renal involvement, and a wide spectrum of autoimmune manifestations that may be completed during follow-up. Indeed, apparently idiopathic thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura may be considered a specific autoimmune disease.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • ADAM Proteins
  • ADAMTS13 Protein
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Autoimmune Diseases / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / etiology*
  • Male
  • Metalloendopeptidases / deficiency*
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Count
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Thrombocytopenia / etiology*
  • Thrombosis / etiology*
  • von Willebrand Factor*


  • von Willebrand Factor
  • ADAM Proteins
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • ADAMTS13 Protein
  • ADAMTS13 protein, human