Dissecting the pathophysiology of immune thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: interplay between genes and environmental triggers

Haematologica. 2018 Jul;103(7):1099-1109. doi: 10.3324/haematol.2016.151407. Epub 2018 Apr 19.


Although outstanding progress has been made in understanding the pathophysiology of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), knowledge of the immunopathogenesis of the disease is only at an early stage. Anti-ADAMTS13 auto-antibodies were shown to block proteolysis of von Willebrand factor and/or induce ADAMTS13 clearance from the circulation. However, it still remains to identify which immune cells are involved in the production of anti-ADAMTS13 autoantibodies, and therefore account for the remarkable efficacy of the B-cell depleting agents in this disease. The mechanisms leading to the loss of tolerance of the immune system towards ADAMTS13 involve the predisposing genetic factors of the human leukocyte antigen class II locus DRB1*11 and DQB1*03 alleles as well as the protective allele DRB1*04, and modifying factors such as ethnicity, sex and obesity. Future studies have to identify why these identified genetic risk factors are also frequently to be found in the healthy population although the incidence of immune-mediated thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (iTTP) is extremely low. Moreover, the development of recombinant ADAMTS13 opens a new therapeutic era in the field. Interactions of recombinant ADAMTS13 with the immune system of iTTP patients will require intensive investigation, especially for its potential immunogenicity. Better understanding of iTTP immunopathogenesis should, therefore, provide a basis for the development of novel therapeutic approaches to restore immune tolerance towards ADAMTS13 and thereby better prevent refractoriness and relapses in patients with iTTP. In this review, we address these issues and the related challenges in this field.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoimmunity
  • Biomarkers
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Environment
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / diagnosis
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / etiology*
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / metabolism
  • Purpura, Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic / therapy


  • Biomarkers