Venous thromboembolism is a major contributor to global disease burden. Leukocytes and platelets initiate thrombogenesis on blood stasis and initiate the formation of a fibrin, VWF (von Willebrand factor), and neutrophil extracellular trap scaffold for erythrocytes. However, there is little knowledge on how erythrocytes become stably incorporated into this scaffold. Recently, we described the adhesion of calcium-loaded erythrocytes to endothelial-derived VWF strings. Because VWF is part of the scaffold of venous thrombi, we questioned whether reduced flow or stasis promotes the adhesion of normal erythrocytes to VWF and whether venous thrombi show evidence of erythrocyte–VWF interactions.Approach and Results—
In the present work, we perfused, under controlled shear conditions, washed, normal erythrocytes over surface-immobilized plasma and extracellular matrix proteins and showed that normal erythrocytes specifically bind to VWF. The interaction between erythrocytes and VWF significantly increased when the wall shear stress was reduced. Next, we investigated whether erythrocyte–VWF interactions support the structure of venous thrombi. High-resolution immunofluorescence imaging of human venous thrombi showed a striking pattern between erythrocytes, VWF, and fibrin, which suggests that VWF plays a supporting role, linking erythrocytes to fibrin in the thrombus.Conclusions—
Our data suggest that erythrocyte retention in venous thrombi is mediated by erythrocyte–VWF or erythrocyte–VWF–fibrin interactions. Targeting erythrocyte retention could be a new strategy in the treatment or prevention of venous thrombosis.