Thrombocytopenia, bleeding and plasma leakage are cardinal features of severe dengue. Endothelial cell activation with exocytosis of Weibel-Palade bodies (WPBs) may play an etiological role in this condition.
Methods and Principal Findings
In a cohort of 73 Indonesian children with dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF), of which 30 with dengue shock syndrome (DSS), we measured plasma levels of the WPB constituents von Willebrand factor antigen (VWF:Ag), VWF propeptide and osteoprotegerin (OPG), together with activity levels of the VWF-cleaving enzyme ADAMTS-13 and the amount of VWF in a platelet binding conformation (VWF activation factor). Compared with healthy controls (n = 17), children with DHF/DSS had significantly higher levels of VWF:Ag, VWF propeptide and OPG and decreased ADAMTS-13 activity. The VWF activation factor was also significantly higher in DHF/DSS and highest in children who died. There were significant differences in the kinetics of the various WPB constituents: VWF propeptide and OPG levels decreased toward discharge, while VWF:Ag levels were lower than expected at enrollment with plasma levels increasing toward discharge. Moreover, VWF propeptide levels correlated better with markers of disease severity (platelet count, liver enzymes, serum albumin and pleural effusion index) than corresponding VWF levels. Together, these findings suggest that there is consumption of VWF in DHF/DSS. In 4 out of 15 selected children with low ADAMTS-13 levels on admission, we found a remarkable reduction in the large and intermediate VWF multimers in the discharge blood samples, consistent with an acquired von Willebrand disease.
These findings suggest that severe dengue is associated with exocytosis of WPBs with increased circulating levels of VWF:Ag, VWF propeptide and OPG. High circulating levels of VWF in its active conformation, together with low ADAMTS-13 activity levels, are likely to contribute to the thrombocytopenia and complications of dengue. During the convalescence phase, qualitative defects in VWF with loss of larger VWF multimers may develop.
Severe dengue infections are characterized by thrombocytopenia, clinical bleeding and plasma leakage. Activation of the endothelium, the inner lining of blood vessels, leads to the secretion of storage granules called Weibel Palade bodies (WPBs). We demonstrated that severe dengue in Indonesian children is associated with a strong increase in plasma levels of the WPB constituents von Willebrand factor (VWF), VWF propeptide and osteoprotegerin (OPG). An increased amount of the hemostatic protein VWF was in a hyperreactive, platelet binding conformation, and this was most pronounced in the children who died. VWF levels at enrollment were lower than expected from concurrent VWF propeptide and OPG levels and VWF levels did not correlate well with markers of disease severity. Together, this suggests that VWF is being consumed during severe dengue. Circulating levels of the VWF-cleaving enzyme ADAMTS-13 were reduced. VWF is a multimeric protein and a subset of children had a decrease in large and intermediate VWF multimers at discharge. In conclusion, severe dengue is associated with exocytosis of WPBs with consumption of VWF and low ADAMTS-13 activity levels. This may contribute to the thrombocytopenia and complications of dengue.