Background. Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT) is a rare syndrome of unclear aetiology occurring after DNA-based vaccinations against COVID-19. The aim of this study was to investigate the DNA vaccine-encoded Sars-cov-2 soluble spike protein (SP). as a potential trigger of platelet activation in VITT. Methods. We studied three VITT patients and seven healthy controls (HCs) within 3 weeks from the first dose of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, and one non vaccinated HC. Serum levels of SP and soluble angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (sACE2), ACE2 expression in platelets and platelet response to VITT serum stimulation were studied. A thrombus retrieved during mechanical thrombectomy from one VITT patients, was analysed by immunohistochemistry for SP and ACE2. Neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs) markers and coagulation parameters were also measured. Results. We detected serum SP (up to 35 days post-vaccination) and sACE2 in all VITT patients, and respectively in two and three out of 7 vaccinated HCs. Only platelets from one non-vaccinated HC expressed ACE2. VITT sera markedly activated platelets and this activation was inhibited by both anti-SP and anti-FcγRIIA blocking antibodies. The thrombus showed positive immunohistochemical labelling of platelets using an anti-SP antibody with reduced ACE2 expression, compared to a thrombus from a pre-pandemic stroke patient. Markers of endothelial dysfunction, NETs and hypercoagulability state were present in all VITT sera. Conclusions. The present data provides first evidence that DNA vaccine-encoded Sars-cov-2 SP is detectable in VITT sera (several weeks post-vaccination) and in a platelet-rich thrombus, and that may contribute to the initial platelet stimulation in VITT patients.
Vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia and spike protein / De Michele, Manuela; Piscopo, Paola; Crestini, Alessio; Rivabene, Roberto; D'Amati, Giulia; Leopizzi, Martina; Stefanini, Lucia; Flego, Davide; Pulcinelli, Fabio Maria; Chistolini, Antonio; Iacobucci, Marta; Schiavo, Oscar Gaetano; Berto, Irene; Nicolini, Ettore; Petraglia, Luca; Di Mascio, Maria Teresa; Toni, Danilo. - (2021).