Platelet destruction in immune thrombocytopenia is caused by autoreactive antibody and T cell responses, most commonly directed against platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa. Loss of self-tolerance in the disease is also associated with deficient activity of regulatory T cells. Having previously mapped seven major epitopes on platelet glycoprotein IIIa that are recognised by helper T cells from patients with immune thrombocytopenia, the aim was to test whether peptide therapy with any of these sequences, alone or in combination, could inhibit responses to the antigen in humanized mice expressing HLA-DR15. None of the individual peptides, delivered by a putative tolerogenic regimen, consistently suppressed the antibody response to subsequent immunization with human platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa. However, the combination of GPIIIa peptides aa6-20 and aa711-725, which contain the predominant helper epitopes in patients and elicited the strongest trends to suppress when used individually, did abrogate this response. The peptide combination also blunted, but did not reverse, the ongoing antibody response when given after immunization. Suppression of antibody was associated with reduced splenocyte T cell responsiveness to the antigen, and with the induction of a regulatory T cell population that is more responsive to the peptides than to purified platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa. Overall, these data demonstrate that combinations of peptides containing helper epitopes, such as platelet glycoprotein IIIa aa6-20 and aa711-725, can promote in vivo suppression of responses to the major antigen implicated in immune thrombocytopenia. The approach offers a promising therapeutic option to boost T cell regulation, which should be taken forward to clinical trials.
- IMMUNE THROMBOCYTOPENIC PURPURA
- ADULT PATIENTS
- REGULATORY CELLS