Towards Understanding ChAdOx1 nCov-19 Vaccine-induced Immune Thrombotic Thrombocytopenia (VITT)


SARS-CoV-2 vaccine ChAdOx1 nCov-19 rarely causes vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) that—like autoimmune heparin-induced thrombocytopenia—is mediated by platelet-activating anti-platelet factor 4 (PF4) antibodies.


We investigated vaccine, PF4, and VITT patient-derived anti-PF4 antibody interactions using dynamic light scattering, 3D-super-resolution microscopy, and electron microscopy. Mass spectrometry was used to analyze vaccine composition. We investigated the mechanism for early post-vaccine inflammatory reactions as potential co-stimulant for anti-PF4 immune response. Finally, we evaluated VITT antibodies for inducing release of procoagulant DNA-containing neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), and measured DNase activity in VITT patient serum.


Biophysical analyses showed formation of complexes between PF4 and vaccine constituents, including virus proteins that were recognized by VITT antibodies. EDTA, a vaccine constituent, increased microvascular leakage in mice allowing for circulation of virus- and virus-producing cell culture-derived proteins. Antibodies in normal sera cross-reacted with human proteins in the vaccine and likely contribute to commonly observed acute ChAdOx1 nCov-19 post-vaccination inflammatory reactions. Polyphosphates and DNA enhanced PF4-dependent platelet activation by VITT antibodies. In the presence of platelets, PF4 enhanced VITT antibody-driven procoagulant NETs formation, while DNase activity was reduced in VITT sera, with granulocyte-rich cerebral vein thrombosis observed in a VITT patient.


ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine constituents (i) form antigenic complexes with PF4, (ii) EDTA increases microvascular permeability, and (iii) vaccine components cause acute inflammatory reactions. Antigen formation in a proinflammatory milieu offers an explanation for anti-PF4 antibody production. High-titer anti-PF4 antibodies activate platelets and induce neutrophil activation and NETs formation, fueling the VITT prothrombotic response.



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