Porcine Extrahepatic Vascular Endothelial Asialoglycoprotein Receptor 1 Mediates Xenogeneic Platelet Phagocytosis In Vitro and in Human-to-Pig Ex Vivo Xenoperfusion

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Asialoglycoprotein receptor-1 (ASGR1) mediates capture and phagocytosis of platelets in pig-to-primate liver xenotransplantation. However, thrombocytopenia is also observed in xenotransplantation or xenoperfusion of other porcine organs than liver. We therefore assessed ASGR1 expression as well as ASGR1-mediated xenogeneic platelet phagocytosis in vitro and ex vivo on porcine aortic, femoral arterial, and liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (PAEC/PFAEC/PLSEC).


Porcine forelimbs were perfused with whole, heparinized human or autologous pig blood. Platelets were counted at regular intervals. Pig limb muscle and liver, as well as PAEC/PFAEC/PLSEC, were characterized for ASGR1 expression. In vitro, PAEC cultured on microcarrier beads and incubated with non-anticoagulated human blood were used to study binding of human platelets and platelet-white blood cell aggregation. Carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester–labeled human platelets were exposed to PAEC/PFAEC/PLSEC and analyzed for ASGR1-mediated phagocytosis.


Human platelet numbers decreased from 102 ± 33 at beginning to 13 ± 6 × 103/μL (P < 0.0001) after 10 minutes of perfusion, whereas no significant decrease of platelets was seen during autologous perfusions (171 ± 26 to 122 ± 95 × 103/μL). The PAEC, PFAEC, and PLSEC all showed similar ASGR1 expression. In vitro, no correlation was found between reduction in platelet count and platelet-white blood cell aggregation. Phagocytosis of human carboxyfluorescein diacetate succinimidyl ester–labeled platelets by PAEC/PFAEC/PLSEC peaked at 15 minutes and was inhibited (P < 0.05 to P < 0.0001) by rabbit anti-ASGR1 antibody and asialofetuin.


The ASGR1 expressed on aortic and limb arterial pig vascular endothelium plays a role in binding and phagocytosis of human platelets. Therefore, ASGR1 may represent a novel therapeutic target to overcome thrombocytopenia associated with vascularized pig-to-primate xenotransplantation.

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