Signaling Through FcγRIIA and the C5a-C5aR Pathway Mediate Platelet Hyperactivation in COVID-19

Front Immunol. 2022 Mar 3:13:834988. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.834988. eCollection 2022.


Patients with COVID-19 present with a wide variety of clinical manifestations. Thromboembolic events constitute a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. Severe COVID-19 has been associated with hyperinflammation and pre-existing cardiovascular disease. Platelets are important mediators and sensors of inflammation and are directly affected by cardiovascular stressors. In this report, we found that platelets from severely ill, hospitalized COVID-19 patients exhibited higher basal levels of activation measured by P-selectin surface expression and had poor functional reserve upon in vitro stimulation. To investigate this question in more detail, we developed an assay to assess the capacity of plasma from COVID-19 patients to activate platelets from healthy donors. Platelet activation was a common feature of plasma from COVID-19 patients and correlated with key measures of clinical outcome including kidney and liver injury, and APACHEIII scores. Further, we identified ferritin as a pivotal clinical marker associated with platelet hyperactivation. The COVID-19 plasma-mediated effect on control platelets was highest for patients that subsequently developed inpatient thrombotic events. Proteomic analysis of plasma from COVID-19 patients identified key mediators of inflammation and cardiovascular disease that positively correlated with in vitro platelet activation. Mechanistically, blocking the signaling of the FcγRIIa-Syk and C5a-C5aR pathways on platelets, using antibody-mediated neutralization, IgG depletion or the Syk inhibitor fostamatinib, reversed this hyperactivity driven by COVID-19 plasma and prevented platelet aggregation in endothelial microfluidic chamber conditions. These data identified these potentially actionable pathways as central for platelet activation and/or vascular complications and clinical outcomes in COVID-19 patients. In conclusion, we reveal a key role of platelet-mediated immunothrombosis in COVID-19 and identify distinct, clinically relevant, targetable signaling pathways that mediate this effect.

Keywords: COVID - 19; FcγRIIa; complement; fostamatinib; platelet.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aminopyridines / pharmacology
  • Blood Platelets / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Complement C5a / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Morpholines / pharmacology
  • Platelet Activation
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacology
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a / metabolism*
  • Receptors, IgG / metabolism*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Signal Transduction
  • Syk Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Thromboembolism / immunology*


  • Aminopyridines
  • C5AR1 protein, human
  • FCGR2A protein, human
  • Morpholines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Receptor, Anaphylatoxin C5a
  • Receptors, IgG
  • Complement C5a
  • Syk Kinase
  • fostamatinib