Johannes A. Bezuidenhout, Chantelle Venter, Timothy Roberts, Gareth Tarr, Douglas B. Kell, Etheresia Pretorius. The Atypical Fibrin Fibre Network in Rheumatoid Arthritis and its Relation to Autoimmunity, Inflammation and Thrombosis bioRxiv 2020.05.28.121301; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.05.28.121301
Objective: The risk of cardiovascular events in patients with RA is disproportionately heightened as a result of systemic inflammation. The relative effect of autoimmune-associated citrullination on the structure and thrombotic potential of fibrin(ogen) remains unknown. We therefore compared indices of vascular function, inflammation, coagulation and fibrin clot composition in RA patients with healthy controls and evaluated inter-parameter relationships.
Blood samples were collected from 30 RA patients and 25 age- and gender-matched healthy volunteers. Levels of SAA, CRP, ICAM-1 and VCAM-1 was measured using a sandwich immunoassay. Whole blood coagulation was assessed using Thromboelastography. Fibrin clot networks and fiber structure was investigated using Scanning Electron Microscopy. The detection and quantification of citrullination in formed fibrin clots were performed using a fluorescently labeled Citrulline monoclonal antibody with Confocal Microscopy.
Concentrations of SAA, CRP and ICAM-1 were significantly elevated in RA patients compared to controls. TEG parameters relating to coagulation initiation (R and K), rate of fibrin cross-linking (α-Angle), and time to reach maximum thrombus generation (TMRTG) were attenuated in RA patients. Parameters relating to clot strength (MA, MRTG, TGG) did not statistically differ between RA and controls. Logistic regression modelling revealed stronger association between acute phase reactants (CRP, SAA) with TEG parameters than endothelial function markers. Microscopic analysis revealed denser networks of thicker fibrin fibers in RA patients compared to controls [median (interquartile range) 214 (170-285) vs 120 (100-144) nm respectively, p<0.0001, Odds ratio=22.7). Detection of multiple citrullinated regions within fibrin clot structures in RA patients, which was less prevalent in control samples (p<0.05, OR=2.2).
Patients with active RA display a coagulation profile that is dissimilar to general findings associated with other inflammatory conditions. The alteration of protein structures by autoimmune linked citrullination could play a role in determining the structure of fibrin and the potential of conferring a heightened thrombotic risk in RA patients.