Posts Tagged ‘plasminogen’

Special Considerations in Blood Lipoproteins, Viscosity, Assessment and Treatment

Special Considerations in Blood Lipoproteins, Viscosity, Assessment and Treatment

Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

This is the second of a two part discussion of viscosity, hemostasis, and vascular risk

This is Part II of a series on blood flow and shear stress effects on hemostasis and vascular disease.

See Part I on viscosity, triglycerides and LDL, and thrombotic risk.


Hemostatic Factors in Thrombophilia

Objectives.—To review the state of the art relating to elevated hemostatic factor levels as a potential risk factor for thrombosis, as reflected by the medical literature and the consensus opinion of recognized experts in the field, and to make recommendations for the use of specific measurements of hemostatic factor levels in the assessment of thrombotic risk in individual patients.

Data Sources.—Review of the medical literature, primarily from the last 10 years.

Data Extraction and Synthesis.—After an initial assessment of the literature, key points were identified. Experts were assigned to do an in-depth review of the literature and to prepare a summary of their findings and recommendations.

A draft manuscript was prepared and circulated to every participant in the College of American Pathologists Conference XXXVI: Diagnostic Issues in Thrombophilia prior to the conference. Each of the key points and associated recommendations was then presented for discussion at the conference. Recommendations were accepted if a consensus of the 27 experts attending the conference was reached. The results of the discussion were used to revise the manuscript into its final form.

Consensus was reached on 8 recommendations concerning the use of hemostatic factor levels in the assessment of thrombotic risk in individual patients.

The underlying premise for measuring elevated coagulation factor levels is that if the average level of the factor is increased in the patient long-term, then the patient may be at increased risk of thrombosis long-term. Both risk of thrombosis and certain factors increase with age (eg, fibrinogen, factor VII, factor VIII, factor IX, and von Willebrand factor). Are these effects linked or do we need age specific ranges? Do acquired effects like other diseases or medications affect factor levels, and do the same risk thresholds apply in these instances? How do we assure that the level we are measuring is a true indication of the patient’s average baseline level and not a transient change? Fibrinogen, factor VIII, and von Willebrand factor are all strong acute-phase reactants.

Risk of bleeding associated with coagulation factor levels increases with roughly log decreases in factor levels. Compared to normal (100%), 60% to 90% decreases in a coagulation factor may be associated with excess bleeding with major trauma, 95% to 98% decreases with minor trauma, and .99% decrease with spontaneous hemorrhage. In contrast, the difference between low risk and high risk for thrombosis may be separated by as little as 15% above normal.

It may be possible to define relative cutoffs for specific factors, for example, 50% above the mean level determined locally in healthy subjects for a certain factor. Before coagulation factor levels can be routinely used to assess individual risk, work must be done to better standardize and calibrate the assays used.

Detailed discussion of the rationale for each of these recommendations is presented in the article. This is an evolving area of research. While routine use of factor level measurements is not recommended, improvements in assay methodology and further clinical studies may change these recommendations in the future.

Chandler WL, Rodgers GM, Sprouse JT, Thompson AR.  Elevated Hemostatic Factor Levels as Potential Risk Factors for Thrombosis.  Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2002;126:1405–1414

Model System for Hemostatic Behavior

This study explores the behavior of a model system in response to perturbations in

  • tissue factor
  • thrombomodulin surface densities
  • tissue factor site dimensions
  • wall shear rate.

The classic time course is characterized by

  • initiation and
  • amplification of thrombin generation
  • the existence of threshold-like responses

This author defines a new parameter, the „effective prothrombotic zone‟,  and its dependence on model parameters. It was found that prothrombotic effects may extend significantly beyond the dimensions of the spatially discrete site of tissue factor expression in both axial and radial directions. Furthermore, he takes advantage of the finite element modeling approach to explore the behavior of systems containing multiple spatially distinct sites of TF expression in a physiologic model. The computational model is applied to assess individualized thrombotic risk from clinical data of plasma coagulation factor levels. He proposes a systems-based parameter with deep venous thrombosis using computational methods in combination with biochemical panels to predict hypercoagulability for high risk populations.


The Vascular Surface

The ‘resting’ endothelium synthesizes and presents a number of antithrombogenic molecules including

  • heparan sulfate proteoglycans
  • ecto-adenosine diphosphatase
  • prostacyclin
  • nitric oxide
  • thrombomodulin.

In response to various stimuli

  • inflammatory mediators
  • hypoxia
  • oxidative stress
  • fluid shear stress

the cell surface becomes ‘activated’ and serves to organize membrane-associated enzyme complexes of coagulation.

Fluid Phase Models of Coagulation

Leipold et al. developed a model of the tissue factor pathway as a design aid for the development of exogenous serine protease inhibitors. In contrast, Guo et al. focused on the reactions of the contact, or intrinsic pathway, to study parameters relevant to material-induced thrombosis, including procoagulant surface area.

Alternative approaches to modeling the coagulation cascade have been pursued including the use of stochastic activity networks to represent the intrinsic, extrinsic, and common pathways through fibrin formation and a kinetic Monte Carlo simulation of TF-initiated thrombin generation. Generally, fluid phase models of the kinetics of coagulation are both computationally and experimentally less complex. As such, the computational models are able to incorporate a large number of species and their reactions, and empirical data is often available for regression analysis and model validation. The range of complexity and motivations for these models is wide, and the models have been used to describe various phenomena including the ‘all-or-none’ threshold behavior of thrombin generation. However, the role of blood flow in coagulation is well recognized in promoting the delivery of substrates to the vessel wall and in regulating the thrombin response by removing activated clotting factors.

Flow Based Models of Coagulation

In 1990, Basmadjian presented a mathematical analysis of the effect of flow and mass transport on a single reactive event at the vessel wall and consequently laid the foundation for the first flow-based models of coagulation. It was proposed that for vessels greater than 0.1 mm in diameter, reactive events at the vessel wall could be adequately described by the assumption of a concentration boundary layer very close to the reactive surface, within which the majority of concentration changes took place. The height of the boundary layer and the mass transfer coefficient that described transport to and from the vessel wall were shown to stabilize on a time scale much shorter than the time scale over which concentration changes were empirically observed. Thus, the vascular space could be divided into two compartments, a boundary volume and a bulk volume, and furthermore, changes within the bulk phase could be considered negligible, thereby reducing the previously intractable problem to a pseudo-one compartment model described by a system of ordinary differential equations.

Basmadjian et al. subsequently published a limited model of six reactions, including two positive feedback reactions and two inhibitory reactions, of the common pathway of coagulation triggered by exogenous factor IXa under flow. As a consequence of the definition of the mass transfer coefficient, the kinetic parameters were dependent on the boundary layer height. Furthermore, the model did not explicitly account for intrinsic tenase or prothrombinase formation, but rather derived a rate expression for reaction in the presence of a cofactor. The major finding of the study was the predicted effect of increased mass transport to enhance thrombin generation by decreasing the induction time up to a critical mass transfer rate, beyond which transport significantly decreased peak thrombin levels thereby reducing overall thrombin production.

Kuharsky and Fogelson formulated a more comprehensive, pseudo-one compartment model of tissue factor-initiated coagulation under flow, which included the description of 59 distinct fluid- and surface-bound species. In contrast to the Baldwin-Basmadjian model, which defined a mass transfer coefficient as a rate of transport to the vessel surface, the Kuharsky-Fogelson model defined the mass transfer coefficient as a rate of transport into the boundary volume, thus eliminating the dependence of kinetic parameters on transport parameters. The computational study focused on the threshold response of thrombin generation to the availability of membrane binding sites. Additionally, the model suggested that adhered platelets may play a role in blocking the activity of the TF/ VIIa complex. Fogelson and Tania later expanded the model to include the protein C and TFPI pathways.

Modeling surface-associated reactions under flow uses finite element method (FEM), which is a technique for solving partial differential equations by dividing the vascular space into a finite number of discrete elements. Hall et al. used FEM to simulate factor X activation over a surface presenting TF in a parallel plate flow reactor. The steady state model was defined by the convection-diffusion equation and Michaelis-Menten reaction kinetics at the surface. The computational results were compared to experimental data for the generation of factor Xa by cultured rat vascular smooth muscle cells expressing TF.

Based on discrepancies between numerical and experimental studies, the catalytic activity of the TF/ VIIa complex may be shear-dependent. Towards the overall objective of developing an antithrombogenic biomaterial, Tummala and Hall studied the kinetics of factor Xa inhibition by surface-immobilized recombinant TFPI under unsteady flow conditions. Similarly, Byun et al. investigated the association and dissociation kinetics of ATIII inactivation of thrombin accelerated by surface-immobilized heparin under steady flow conditions. To date, finite element models that detail surface-bound reactions under flow have been restricted to no more than a single reaction catalyzed by a single surface-immobilized species.


Models of Coagulation Incorporating Spatial Parameter

Major findings include the roles of these specific coagulation pathways in the

  • initiation
  • amplification
  • termination phases of coagulation.

Coagulation near the activating surface was determined by TF/VIIa catalyzed factor Xa production, which was rapidly inhibited close to the wall. In contrast, factor IXa diffused farther from the surface, and thus factor Xa generation and clot formation away from the reactive wall was dependent on intrinsic tenase (IXa/ VIIIa) activity. Additionally, the concentration wave of thrombin propagated away from the activation zone at a rate which was dependent on the efficiency of inhibitory mechanisms.

Experimental and ‘virtual’ addition of plasma-phase thrombomodulin resulted in dose-dependent termination of thrombin generation and provided evidence of spatial localization of clot formation by TM with final clot lengths of 0.2-2 mm under diffusive conditions.

These studies provide an interesting analysis of the roles of specific factors in relation to space due to diffusive effects, but neglect the essential role of blood flow in the transport analysis. Additionally, the spatial dynamics of clot localization by thrombomodulin would likely be affected by restricting the inhibitor to its physiologic site on the vessel surface.

Finite Element Modeling

Finite element method (FEM) is a numerical technique for solving partial differential equations. Originally proposed in the 1940s to approach structural analysis problems in civil engineering, FEM now finds application in a wide variety of disciplines. The computational method relies on mesh discretization of a continuous domain which subdivides the space into a finite number of ‘elements’. The physics of each element are defined by its own set of physical properties and boundary conditions, and the simultaneous solution of the equations describing the individual elements approximate the behavior of the overall domain.

Sumanas W. Jordan, PhD Thesis. A Mathematical Model of Tissue Factor-Induced Blood Coagulation: Discrete Sites of Initiation and Regulation under Conditions of Flow.

Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering. Emory University, Georgia Institute of Technology. May 2010.  Under supervision of: Dr. Elliot L. Chaikof, Departments of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering.

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pat...

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pathways (Blood_Coagulation_and_Protein_C_Pathways.jpg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coagulation cascade

Coagulation cascade (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Cardiovascular Physiology: Modeling, Estimation and Signal Processing

With cardiovascular diseases being among the main causes of death in the world, quantitative modeling, assessment and monitoring of cardiovascular dynamics, and functioning play a critical role in bringing important breakthroughs to cardiovascular care. Quantification of cardiovascular physiology and its control mechanisms from physiological recordings, by use of mathematical models and algorithms, has been proved to be of important value in understanding the causes of cardiovascular diseases and assisting the diagnostic and prognostic process. This E-Book is derived from the Frontiers in Computational Physiology and Medicine Research Topic entitled “Engineering Approaches to Study Cardiovascular Physiology: Modeling, Estimation and Signal Processing.”

There are two review articles. The first review article by Chen et al. (2012) presents a unified point process probabilistic framework to assess heart beat dynamics and autonomic cardiovascular control. Using clinical recordings of healthy subjects during Propofol anesthesia, the authors demonstrate the effectiveness of their approach by applying the proposed paradigm to estimate

  • instantaneous heart rate (HR),
  • heart rate variability (HRV),
  • respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)
  • baroreflex sensitivity (BRS).

The second review article, contributed by Zhang et al. (2011), provides a comprehensive overview of tube-load model parameter estimation for monitoring arterial hemodynamics.

The remaining eight original research articles can be mainly classified into two categories. The two articles from the first category emphasize modeling and estimation methods. In particular, the paper “Modeling the autonomic and metabolic effects of obstructive sleep apnea: a simulation study” by Cheng and Khoo (2012), combines computational modeling and simulations to study the autonomic and metabolic effects of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

The second paper, “Estimation of cardiac output and peripheral resistance using square-wave-approximated aortic flow signal” by Fazeli and Hahn (2012), presents a model-based approach to estimate cardiac output (CO) and total peripheral resistance (TPR), and validates the proposed approach via in vivo experimental data from animal subjects.

The six articles in the second category focus on application of signal processing techniques and statistical tools to analyze cardiovascular or physiological signals in practical applications. the paper “Modulation of the sympatho-vagal balance during sleep: frequency domain study of heart rate variability and respiration” by Cabiddu et al. (2012), uses spectral and cross-spectral analysis of heartbeat and respiration signals to assess autonomic cardiac regulation and cardiopulmonary coupling variations during different sleep stages in healthy subjects.

The paper “increased non-gaussianity of heart rate variability predicts cardiac mortality after an acute myocardial infarction” by Hayano et al. (2011) uses a new non-gaussian index to assess the HRV of cardiac mortality using 670 post-acute myocardial infarction (AMI) patients. the paper “non-gaussianity of low frequency heart rate variability and sympathetic activation: lack of increases in multiple system atrophy and parkinson disease” by Kiyono et al. (2012), applies a non-gaussian index to assess HRV in patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA) and parkinson diseases and reports the relation between the non-gaussian intermittency of the heartbeat and increased sympathetic activity. The paper “Information domain approach to the investigation of cardio-vascular, cardio-pulmonary, and vasculo-pulmonary causal couplings” by Faes et al. (2011), proposes an information domain approach to evaluate nonlinear causality among heartbeat, arterial pressure, and respiration measures during tilt testing and paced breathing protocols. The paper “integrated central-autonomic multifractal complexity in the heart rate variability of healthy humans” by Lin and Sharif (2012), uses a relative multifractal complexity measure to assess HRV in healthy humans and discusses the related implications in central autonomic interactions. Lastly, the paper “Time scales of autonomic information flow in near-term fetal sheep” by Frasch et al. (2012), analyzes the autonomic information flow (AIF) with kullback–leibler entropy in fetal sheep as a function of vagal and sympathetic modulation of fetal HRV during atropine and propranolol blockade.

In summary, this Research Topic attempts to give a general panorama of the possible state-of-the-art modeling methodologies, practical tools in signal processing and estimation, as well as several important clinical applications, which can altogether help deepen our understanding about heart physiology and pathology and further lead to new scientific findings. We hope that the readership of Frontiers will appreciate this collected volume and enjoy reading the presented contributions. Finally, we are grateful to all contributed authors, reviewers, and editorial staffs who had all put tremendous effort to make this E-Book a reality.

Cabiddu, R., Cerutti, S., Viardot, G., Werner, S., and Bianchi, A. M. (2012). Modulation of the sympatho-vagal balance during sleep: frequency domain study of heart rate variability and respiration. Front. Physio. 3:45. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00045

Chen, Z., Purdon, P. L., Brown, E. N., and Barbieri, R. (2012). A unified point process probabilistic framework to assess heartbeat dynamics and autonomic cardiovascular control. Front. Physio. 3:4. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00004

Cheng, L., and Khoo, M. C. K. (2012). Modeling the autonomic and metabolic effects of obstructive sleep apnea: a simulation study. Front. Physio. 2:111. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00111

Faes, L., Nollo, G., and Porta, A. (2011). Information domain approach to the investigation of cardio-vascular, cardio-pulmonary, and vasculo-pulmonary causal couplings. Front. Physio. 2:80. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00080

Fazeli, N., and Hahn, J.-O. (2012). Estimation of cardiac output and peripheral resistance using square-wave-approximated aortic flow signal. Front. Physio. 3:298. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00298

Frasch, M. G., Frank, B., Last, M., and Müller, T. (2012). Time scales of autonomic information flow in near-term fetal sheep. Front. Physio. 3:378. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00378

Hayano, J., Kiyono, K., Struzik, Z. R., Yamamoto, Y., Watanabe, E., Stein, P. K., et al. (2011). Increased non-gaussianity of heart rate variability predicts cardiac mortality after an acute myocardial infarction. Front. Physio. 2:65. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00065

Kiyono, K., Hayano, J., Kwak, S., Watanabe, E., and Yamamoto, Y. (2012). Non-Gaussianity of low frequency heart rate variability and sympathetic activation: lack of increases in multiple system atrophy and Parkinson disease. Front. Physio. 3:34. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00034

Lin, D. C., and Sharif, A. (2012). Integrated central-autonomic multifractal complexity in the heart rate variability of healthy humans. Front. Physio. 2:123. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00123

Zhang, G., Hahn, J., and Mukkamala, R. (2011). Tube-load model parameter estimation for monitoring arterial hemodynamics. Front. Physio. 2:72. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2011.00072

Citation: Chen Z and Barbieri R (2012) Editorial: engineering approaches to study cardiovascular physiology: modeling, estimation, and signal processing. Front. Physio. 3:425. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00425

fluctuations of cerebral blood flow and metabolic demand following hypoxia in neonatal brain

Most of the research investigating the pathogenesis of perinatal brain injury following hypoxia-ischemia has focused on excitotoxicity, oxidative stress and an inflammatory response, with the response of the developing cerebrovasculature receiving less attention. This is surprising as the presentation of devastating and permanent injury such as germinal matrix-intraventricular haemorrhage (GM-IVH) and perinatal stroke are of vascular origin, and the origin of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) may also arise from poor perfusion of the white matter. This highlights that cerebrovasculature injury following hypoxia could primarily be responsible for the injury seen in the brain of many infants diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).

The highly dynamic nature of the cerebral blood vessels in the fetus, and the fluctuations of cerebral blood flow and metabolic demand that occur following hypoxia suggest that the response of blood vessels could explain both regional protection and vulnerability in the developing brain.

This review discusses the current concepts on the pathogenesis of perinatal brain injury, the development of the fetal cerebrovasculature and the blood brain barrier (BBB), and key mediators involved with the response of cerebral blood vessels to hypoxia.

Baburamani AA, Ek CJ, Walker DW and Castillo-Melendez M. Vulnerability of the developing brain to hypoxic-ischemic damage: contribution of the cerebral vasculature to injury and repair? Front. Physio. 2012;  3:424. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00424

remodeling of coronary and cerebral arteries and arterioles 

Effects of hypertension on arteries and arterioles often manifest first as a thickened wall, with associated changes in passive material properties (e.g., stiffness) or function (e.g., cellular phenotype, synthesis and removal rates, and vasomotor responsiveness). Less is known, however, regarding the relative evolution of such changes in vessels from different vascular beds.

We used an aortic coarctation model of hypertension in the mini-pig to elucidate spatiotemporal changes in geometry and wall composition (including layer-specific thicknesses as well as presence of collagen, elastin, smooth muscle, endothelial, macrophage, and hematopoietic cells) in three different arterial beds, specifically aortic, cerebral, and coronary, and vasodilator function in two different arteriolar beds, the cerebral and coronary.

Marked geometric and structural changes occurred in the thoracic aorta and left anterior descending coronary artery within 2 weeks of the establishment of hypertension and continued to increase over the 8-week study period. In contrast, no significant changes were observed in the middle cerebral arteries from the same animals. Consistent with these differential findings at the arterial level, we also found a diminished nitric oxide-mediated dilation to adenosine at 8 weeks of hypertension in coronary arterioles, but not cerebral arterioles.

These findings, coupled with the observation that temporal changes in wall constituents and the presence of macrophages differed significantly between the thoracic aorta and coronary arteries, confirm a strong differential progressive remodeling within different vascular beds.

These results suggest a spatiotemporal progression of vascular remodeling, beginning first in large elastic arteries and delayed in distal vessels.

Hayenga HN, Hu J-J, Meyer CA, Wilson E, Hein TW, Kuo L and Humphrey JD  Differential progressive remodeling of coronary and cerebral arteries and arterioles in an aortic coarctation model of hypertension. Front. Physio. 2012; 3:420. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00420

C-reactive protein oxidant-mediated release of pro-thrombotic  factor

Inflammation and the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) have been implicated in the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis. Although C-reactive protein (CRP) has traditionally been considered to be a biomarker of inflammation, recent in vitro and in vivo studies have provided evidence that CRP, itself, exerts pro-thrombotic effects on vascular cells and may thus play a critical role in the development of atherothrombosis. Of particular importance is that CRP interacts with Fcγ receptors on cells of the vascular wall giving rise to the release of pro-thrombotic factors. The present review focuses on distinct sources of CRP-mediated ROS generation as well as the pivotal role of ROS in CRP-induced tissue factor expression. These studies provide considerable insight into the role of the oxidative mechanisms in CRP-mediated stimulation of pro-thrombotic factors and activation of platelets. Collectively, the available data provide strong support for ROS playing an important intermediary role in the relationship between CRP and atherothrombosis.

Zhang Z, Yang Y, Hill MA and Wu J.  Does C-reactive protein contribute to atherothrombosis via oxidant-mediated release of pro-thrombotic factors and activation of platelets? Front. Physio.  2012; 3:433. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2012.00433

CRP association with Peripheral Vascular Disease

To determine whether the increase in plasma levels of C-Reactive Protein (CRP), a non-specifi c reactant in the acute-phase of systemic infl ammation, is associated with clinical severity of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

This is a cross-sectional study at a referral hospital center of institutional practice in Madrid, Spain.  These investigators took a stratifi ed random sampling of 3370 patients with symptomatic PAD from the outpatient vascular laboratory database in 2007 in the order of their clinical severity:

  • the fi rst group of patients with mild chronological clinical severity who did not require surgical revascularization,
  • the second group consisted of patients with moderate clinical severity who had only undergone only one surgical revascularization procedure and
  • the third group consisted of patients who were severely affected and had undergone two or more surgical revascularization procedures of the lower extremities in different areas or needed late re-interventions.

The Neyman affi xation was used to calculate the sample size with a fi xed relative error of 0.1.

A homogeneity analysis between groups and a unifactorial analysis of comparison of medians for CRP was done.

The groups were homogeneous for

  • age
  • smoking status
  • Arterial Hypertension
  • diabetes mellitus
  • dyslipemia
  • homocysteinemia and
  • specifi c markers of infl ammation.

In the unifactorial analysis of multiple comparisons of medians according to Scheffé, it was observed that

the median values of CRP plasma levels were increased in association with higher clinical severity of PAD

  • 3.81 mg/L [2.14–5.48] vs.
  • 8.33 [4.38–9.19] vs.
  • 12.83 [9.5–14.16]; p  0.05

as a unique factor of tested ones.

Plasma levels of CRP are associated with not only the presence of atherosclerosis but also with its chronological clinical severity.

De Haro J, Acin F, Medina FJ, Lopez-Quintana A, and  March JR.  Relationship Between the Plasma Concentration of C-Reactive Protein and Severity of Peripheral Arterial Disease.
Clinical Medicine: Cardiology 2009;3: 1–7

Hemostasis induced by hyperhomocysteinemia

Elevated concentration of homocysteine (Hcy) in human tissues, defined as hyperhomocysteinemia has been correlated with some diseases, such as

  • cardiovascular
  • neurodegenerative
  • kidney disorders

L-Homocysteine (Hcy) is an endogenous amino acid, containing a free thiol group, which in healthy cells is involved in methionine and cysteine synthesis/resynthesis. Indirectly, Hcy participates in methyl, folate, and cellular thiol metabolism. Approximately 80% of total plasma Hcy is protein-bound, and only a small amount exists as a free reduced Hcy (about 0.1 μM). The majority of the unbound fraction of Hcy is oxidized, and forms dimers (homocystine) or mixed disulphides consisting of cysteine and Hcy.

Two main pathways of Hcy biotoxicity are discussed:

  1. Hcy-dependent oxidative stress – generated during oxidation of the free thiol group of Hcy. Hcy binds via a disulphide bridge with

—     plasma proteins

—     or with other low-molecular plasma  thiols

—     or with a second Hcy molecule.

Accumulation of oxidized biomolecules alters the biological functions of many cellular pathways.

  1. Hcy-induced protein structure modifications, named homocysteinylation.

Two main types of homocysteinylation exist: S-homocysteinylation and N-homocysteinylation; both considered as posttranslational protein modifications.

a)      S-homocysteinylation occurs when Hcy reacts, by its free thiol group, with another free thiol derived from a cysteine residue in a protein molecule.

These changes can alter the thiol-dependent redox status of proteins.

b)      N-homocysteinylation takes place after acylation of the free ε-amino lysine groups of proteins by the most reactive form of Hcy — its cyclic thioester (Hcy thiolactone — HTL), representing up to 0.29% of total plasma Hcy.

Homocysteine occurs in human blood plasma in several forms, including the most reactive one, the homocysteine thiolactone (HTL) — a cyclic thioester, which represents up to 0.29% of total plasma Hcy. In human blood, N-homocysteinylated (N-Hcy-protein) and S-homocysteinylated proteins (S-Hcy-protein) such as NHcy-hemoglobin, N-(Hcy-S-S-Cys)-albumin, and S-Hcyalbumin are known. Other pathways of Hcy biotoxicity might be apoptosis and excitotoxicity mediated through glutamate receptors. The relationship between homocysteine and risk appears to hold for total plasma concentrations of homocysteine between 10 and 30 μM.

Different forms of homocysteine present in human blood.

*Total level of homocysteine — the term “total homocysteine” describes the pool of homocysteine released by reduction of all disulphide bonds in the sample (Perla-Kajan et al., 2007; Zimny, 2008; Manolescu et al., 2010, modified).

The form of Hcy The concentration in human blood
Homocysteine thiolactone (HTL) 0–35 nM
Protein N-linked homocysteine:
N-Hcy-hemoglobin, N-(Hcy-S-S-Cys)-albumin
about 15.5 μM: 12.7 μM, 2.8 μM
Protein S-linked homocysteine — S-Hcy-albumin about 7.3 μM*
Homocystine (Hcy-S-S-Hcy) and combined with cysteine to from mixed disulphides (Hcy-S-S-Cys) about 2 μM*
Free reduced Hcy about 0.1 μM*

As early as in the 1960s it was noted that the risk of atherosclerosis is markedly increased in patients with homocystinuria, an inherited disease resulting from homozygous CBS deficiency and characterized by episodes of

—     thromboembolism

—     mental retardation

—     lens dislocation

—     hepatic steatosis

—     osteoporosis.

—     very high concentrations of plasma homocysteine and methionine.

Patients with homocystinuria have very severe hyperhomocysteinemia, with plasma homocysteine concentration reaching even 400 μM, and represent a very small proportion of the population (approximately 1 in 200,000 individuals). Heterozygous lack of CBS, CBS mutations and polymorphism of the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene are considered to be the most probable causes of hyperhomocysteinemia.

The effects of hyperhomocysteinemia include the complex process of hemostasis, which regulates the properties of blood flow. Interactions of homocysteine and its different derivatives, including homocysteine thiolactone, with the major components of hemostasis are:

  • endothelial cells
  • platelets
  • fibrinogen
  • plasminogen

Elevated plasma Hcy (>15 μM; Hcy) is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases

  • thrombosis
  • thrombosis related diseases
  • ischemic brain stroke (independent of other, conventional risk factors of this disease)

Every increase of 2.5 μM in plasma Hcy may be associated with an increase of stroke risk of about 20%.  Total plasma Hcy level above 20 μM are associated with a nine-fold increase of the myocardial infarction and stroke risk, in comparison to the concentrations below 9 μM. The increase of Hcy concentration has been also found in other human pathologies, including neurodegenerative diseases

Modifications of hemostatic proteins (N-homocysteinylation or S-homocysteinylation) induced by Hcy or its thiolactone seem to be the main cause of homocysteine biotoxicity in hemostatic abnormalities.

Hcy and HTL may act as oxidants, but various polyphenolic antioxidants are able to inhibit the oxidative damage induced by Hcy or HTL. Therefore, we have to consider the role of phenolic antioxidants in hyperhomocysteinemia –induced changes in hemostasis.

The synthesis of homocysteine thiolactone is associated with the activation of the amino acid by aminoacyl-tRNA synthetase (AARS). Hcy may also undergo erroneous activation, e.g. by methionyl-t-RNA synthetase (MetRS). In the first step of conversion of Hcy to HTL, MetRS misactivates Hcy giving rise to homocysteinyl-adenylate. In the next phase, the homocysteine side chain thiol group reacts with the activated carboxyl group and HTL is produced. The level of HTL synthesis in cultured cells depends on Hcy and Met levels.

Hyperhomocysteinemia and Changes in Fibrinolysis and Coagulation Process

The fibrinolytic activity of blood is regulated by specific inhibitors; the inhibition of fibrinolysis takes place at the level of plasminogen activation (by PA-inhibitors: plasminogen activator inhibitor type-1, -2; PAI-1 or PAI-2) or at the level of plasmin activity (mainly by α2-antiplasmin). Hyperhomocysteinemia disturbs hemostasis and shifts the hemostatic mechanisms in favor of thrombosis. The recent reports indicate that the prothrombotic state observed in hyperhomocysteinemia may arise not only due to endothelium dysfunction or blood platelet and coagulation activation, but also due to impaired fibrinolysis. Hcy-modified fibrinogen is more resistant to the fibrinolytic action. Oral methionine load increases total Hcy, but may diminish the fibrinolytic activity of the euglobulin plasma fraction. Homocysteine-lowering therapies may increase fibrinolytic activity, thereby, prevent atherothrombotic events in patients with cardiovascular diseases after the first myocardial infarction.

Homocysteine — Fibronectin Interaction and its Consequences

Fibronectin (Fn) plays key roles in

  • cell adhesion
  • migration
  • embryogenesis
  • differentiation
  • hemostasis
  • thrombosis
  • wound healing
  • tissue remodeling

Interaction of FN with fibrin, mediated by factor XIII transglutaminase, is thought to be important for cell adhesion or cell migration into fibrin clots. After tissue injury, a blood clot formation serves the dual role of restoring vascular integrity and serving as a temporary scaffold for the wound healing process. Fibrin and plasma FN, the major protein components of blood clots, are essential to perform these functions. In the blood clotting process, after fibrin deposition, plasma FN-fibrin matrix is covalently crosslinked, and it then promotes fibroblast adhesion, spreading, and migration into the clot.

Homocysteine binds to several human plasma proteins, including fibronectin. If homocysteine binds to fibronectin via a disulphide linkage, this binding results in a functional change, namely, the inhibition of fibrin binding by fibronectin. This inhibition may lead to a prolonged recovery from a thrombotic event and contribute to vascular occlusion.

Grape seeds are one of the richest plant sources of phenolic substances, and grape seed extract reduces the toxic effect of Hcys and HTL on fibrinolysis. The grape seed extract (12.5–50 μg/ml) supported plasminogen to plasmin conversion inhibited by Hcys or HTL. In vitro experiments showed in the presence of grape seed extract (at the highest tested concentration — 50 μg/ml) the increase of about 78% (for human plasminogen-treated with Hcys) and 56% (for human plasma-treated with Hcys). Thus, in the in vitro model system, that the grape seed extract (12.5–50 μg/ml) diminished the reduction of thiol groups and of lysine ε-amino groups in plasma proteins treated with Hcys (0.1 mM) or HTL (1 μM). In the presence of the grape seed extract at the concentration of 50 μg/ml, the level of reduction of thiol groups reached about 45% (for plasma treated with Hcys) and about 15% (for plasma treated with HTL).

In the presence of the grape seed extract at the concentration of 50 μg/ml, the level of reduction of thiol groups reached about 45% (for plasma treated with Hcys) and about 15% (for plasma treated with HTL).Very similar protective effects of the grape seed extract were observed in the measurements of lysine ε-amino groups in plasma proteins treated with Hcys or HTL. These results indicated that the extract from berries of Aronia melanocarpa (a rich source of phenolic substances) reduces the toxic effects of Hcy and HTL on the hemostatic properties of fibrinogen and plasma. These findings indicate a possible protective action of the A. melanocarpa extract in hyperhomocysteinemia-induced cardiovascular disorders. Moreover, the extract from berries of A. melanocarpa, due to its antioxidant action, significantly attenuated the oxidative stress (assessed by measuring of the total antioxidant status — TAS) in plasma in a model of hyperhomocysteinemia.

Proposed model for the protective role of phenolic antioxidants on selected elements of hemostasis during hyperhomocysteinemia.

various antioxidants (present in human diet), including phenolic compounds, may reduce the toxic effects of Hcy or its derivatives on hemostasis. These findings give hope for the develop development of dietary supplements, which will be capable of preventing thrombosis which occurs under pathological conditions, observed also in hyperhomocysteinemia, such as plasma procoagulant activity and oxidative stress.

Malinowska J,  Kolodziejczyk J and Olas B. The disturbance of hemostasis induced by hyper-homocysteinemia; the role of antioxidants. Acta Biochimica Polonica 2012; 59(2): 185–194.

Lipoprotein (a)

Lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)), for the first time described in 1963 by Berg belongs to the lipoproteins with the strongest atherogenic effect. Its importance for the development of various atherosclerotic vasculopathies (coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, peripheral vasculopathy, abdominal aneurysm) was recognized considerably later.

Lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)), an established risk marker of cardiovascular diseases, is independent from other risk markers. The main difference of Lp(a) compared to low density lipoprotein (LDL) is the apo(a) residue, covalently bound to apoB is covalently by a disulfide-bridge. Apo(a) synthesis is performed in the liver, probably followed by extracellular assembly to the apoB location of the LDL.


ApoB-100_______LDL¬¬___ S-S –    9

Apo(a) has been detected bound to triglyceride-rich lipoproteins (Very Low Density Lipoproteins; VLDL). Corresponding to the structural similarity to LDL, both particles are very similar to each other with regard to their composition. It is a glycoprotein which underlies a large genetic polymorphism caused by a variation of the kringle-IV-type-2 repeats of the protein, characterized by a structural homology to plasminogen. Apo(a)’s structural homology to plasminogen, shares the gene localization on chromosome 6. The kringle repeats present a particularly characteristic structure, which have a high similarity to kringle IV (K IV) of plasminogen. Apo(a) also has a kringle V structure of plasminogen and also a protease domain, which cannot be activated, as opposed to the one of plasminogen. At least 30 genetically determined apo(a) isoforms were identified in man.


  • Non covalent binding of kringle -4 types 7 and 8 of apo (a) to apo B
  • Disulfide bond at Cys4326 of ApoB (near its receptor binding domain ) and the only free cysteine group in K –IV type 9 (Cys4057) of apo(a )
  • Binding to fibrin and cell membranes
  • Enhancement by small isoforms ; high concentrations compared to plasminogen and homocysteine
  • Binding to different lysine rich components of the coagulation system (e. g. TFPI)
  • Intense homology to plasminogen but no protease activity
ApoB-100_______LDL¬¬___ S-S – 9

The synthesis of Lp(a), which thus occurs as part of an assembly, is a two-step process.

  • In a first step, which can be competitively inhibited by lysine analogues, the free sulfhydryl groups of apo(a) and apoB are brought close together.
  • The binding of apo(a) then occurs near the apoB domain which binds to the LDL receptor, resulting in a reduced affinity of Lp(a) to the LDL-receptor.

Particles that show a reduced affinity to the LDL receptor are not able to form stable compounds with apo(a). Thus the largest part of apo(a) is present as apo(a) bound to LDL. Only a small, quantitatively variable part of apo(a) remains as free apo(a) and probably plays an important role in the metabolism and physiological function of Lp(a).

The Lp(a) plasma concentration in the population is highly skewed and determined to more than 90 % by genetic factors. In healthy subjects the Lp(a)-concentration is correlated with its synthesis.

It is assumed that the kidney has a specific function in Lp(a) catabolizm, since nephrotic syndrome and terminal kidney failure are associated with an elevation of the Lp(a) plasma concentration. One consequence of the poor knowledge of the metabolic path of Lp(a) is the fact that so far pharmaceutical science has failed to develop drugs that are able to reduce elevated Lp(a) plasma concentrations to a desirable level.

Plasma concentrations of Lp(a) are affected by different diseases (e.g. diseases of liver and kidney), hormonal factors (e.g. sexual steroids, glucocorticoids, thyroid hormones), individual and environmental factors (e.g. age, cigarette smoking) as well as pharmaceuticals (e.g. derivatives of nicotinic acid) and therapeutic procedures (lipid apheresis). This review describes the physiological regulation of Lp(a) as well as factors influencing its plasma concentration.

Apart from its significance as an important agent in the development of atherosclerosis, Lp(a) has even more physiological functions, e.g. in

  • wound healing
  • angiogenesis
  • hemostasis

However, in the meaning of a pleiotropic mechanism the favorable action mechanisms are opposed by pathogenic mechanisms, whereby the importance of Lp(a) in atherogenesis is stressed.

Lp(a) in Atherosclerosis

In transgenic, hyperlipidemic and Lp(a) expressing Watanabe rabbits, Lp(a) leads to enhanced atherosclerosis. Under the influence of Lp(a), the binding of Lp(a) to glycoproteins, e.g. laminin, results – via its apo(a)-part – both in

  • an increased invasion of inflammatory cells and in
  • an activation of smooth vascular muscle cells

with subsequent calcifications in the vascular wall.

The inhibition of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) activation is another mechanism via which Lp(a) contributes to the development of atherosclerotic vasculopathies. TGF-β1 is subject to proteolytic activation by plasmin and its active form leads to an inhibition of the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells, which play a central role in the formation and progression of atherosclerotic vascular diseases.

In man, Lp(a) is an important risk marker which is independent of other risk markers. Its importance, partly also under consideration of the molecular weight and other genetic polymorphisms, could be demonstrated by a high number of epidemiological and clinical studies investigating the formation and progression of atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, and stroke.

Lp(a) in Hemostasis

Lp(a) is able to competitively inhibit the binding of plasminogen to fibrinogen and fibrin, and to inhibit the fibrin-dependent activation of plasminogen to plasmin via the tissue plasminogen activator, whereby apo(a) isoforms of low molecular weight have a higher affinity to fibrin than apo(a) isoforms of higher molecular weight. Like other compounds containing sulfhydryl groups, homocysteine enhances the binding of Lp(a) to fibrin.

Pleiotropic effect of Lp(a).

Prothrombotic :

  • Binding to fibrin
  • Competitive inhibition of plasminogen
  • Stimulation of plasminogen activator inhibitor I and II (PAI -I, PAI -II)
  • Inactivation of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI)

Antithrombotic :

  • Inhibition of platelet activating factor acetylhydrolase (PAF -AH)
  • Inhibition of platelet activating factor
  • Inhibition of collagen dependent platelet aggregation
  • Inhibition of secretion of serotonin und thromboxane

Lp(a) in Angiogenesis

Lp(a) is also important for the process of angiogenesis and the sprouting of new vessels.

  • angiogenesis starts with the remodelling of matrix proteins and
  • activation of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP).

The latter ones are usually synthesised as

  • inactive zymogens and
  • require activation by proteases,

Recall that Apo(a) is not activated by proteases. The angiogenesis is also accomplished by plasminogen. Lp(a) and apo(a) and its fragments has an antiangiogenetic and metastasis inhibiting effect related to the structural homology with plasminogen without the protease activity.

Siekmeier R, Scharnagl H, Kostner GM, T. Grammer T, Stojakovic T and März W.  Variation of Lp(a) Plasma Concentrations in Health and Disease.  The Open Clinical Chemistry Journal, 2010; 3: 72-89.


In 1985, Brown and Goldstein were awarded the Nobel Prize for medicine for their work on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. On the basis of numerous studies, they were able to demonstrate that circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is absorbed into the cell through receptor linked endocytosis. The absorption of LDL into the cell is specific and is mediated by a LDL receptor. In patients with familial hypercholesterolemia, this receptor is changed, and the LDL particles can no longer be recognized. Their absorption can thus no longer be mediated, leading to an accumulation of LDL in blood.

Furthermore, an excess supply of cholesterol also blocks the 3-hydrox-3 methylglutaryl-Co enzyme A (HMG CoA), reductase enzyme, which otherwise inhibits the cholesterol synthesis rate. Brown and Goldstein also determined the structure of the LDL receptor. They discovered structural defects in this receptor in many patients with familial hypercholesterolemia. Thus, familial hypercholesterolemia was the first metabolic disease that could be tracked back to the mutation of a receptor gene.

Dyslipoproteinemia in combination with diabetes mellitus causes a cumulative insult to the vasculature resulting in more severe disease which occurs at an earlier age in large and small vessels as well as capillaries. The most common clinical conditions resulting from this combination are myocardial infarction and lower extremity vascular disease. Ceriello et al. show an independent and cumulative effect of postprandial hypertriglyceridemia and hyperglycemia on endothelial function, suggesting oxidative stress as common mediator of such effect. The combination produces greater morbidity and mortality than either alone.

As an antiatherogenic factor, HDL cholesterol correlates inversely to the extent of postprandial lipemia. A high concentration of HDL is a sign that triglyceride-rich particles are quickly decomposed in the postprandial phase of lipemia. Conversely, with a low HDL concentration this decomposition is delayed. Thus, excessively high triglyceride concentrations are accompanied by very low HDL counts. This combination has also been associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis.

The importance of lipoprotein (a) (Lp(a)) as an atherogenic substance has also been recognized in recent years. Lp(a) is very similar to LDL. But it also contains Apo(a), which is very similar to plasminogen, enabling Lp(a) to bind to fibrin clots. Binding of plasminogen is prevented and fibrinolysis obstructed. Thrombi are integrated into the walls of the arteries and become plaque components.

Another strong risk factor for accelerated atherogenesis, which must be mentioned here, are the widespread high homocysteine levels found in dialysis patients. This risk factor is independent of classic risk factors such as high cholesterol and LDL levels, smoking, hypertension, and obesity, and much more predictive of coronary events in dialysis patients than are these better-known factors. Homocysteine is a sulfur aminoacid produced in the metabolism of methionine. Under normal conditions, about 50 percent of homocysteine is remethylated to methionine and the remaining via the transsulfuration pathway.

Defining hyperhomocysteinemia as levels greater than the 90th percentile of controls and elevated Lp(a) level as greater than 30mg/dL, the frequency of the combination increased with declining renal function. Fifty-eight percent of patients with a GFR less than 10mL/min had both hyperhomocysteinemia and elevated Lp(a) levels, and even in patients with mild renal impairment, 20 percent of patients had both risk factors present.

The prognosis of patients suffering from severe hyperlipidemia, sometimes combined with elevated lipoprotein (a) levels, and coronary heart disease refractory to diet and lipid-lowering drugs is poor. For such patients, regular treatment with low-density lipoprotein (LDL) apheresis is the therapeutic option. Today, there are five different LDL-apheresis systems available: cascade filtration or lipid filtration, immunoadsorption, heparin-induced LDL precipitation, dextran sulfate LDL adsorption, and the LDL hemoperfusion. The requirement that the original level of cholesterol is to be reduced by at least 60 percent is fulfilled by all these systems.

There is a strong correlation between hyperlipidemia and atherosclerosis. Besides the elimination of other risk factors, in severe hyperlipidemia therapeutic strategies should focus on a drastic reduction of serum lipoproteins. Despite maximum conventional therapy with a combination of different kinds of lipid-lowering drugs, sometimes the goal of therapy cannot be reached. Hence, in such patients, treatment with LDL-apheresis is indicated. Technical and clinical aspects of these five different LDL-apheresis methods are depicted. There were no significant differences with respect to or concerning all cholesterols, or triglycerides observed.

High plasma levels of Lp(a) are associated with an increased risk for atherosclerotic coronary heart       disease
(CHD) by a mechanism yet to be determined. Because of its structural properties, Lp(a) can have both atherogenic and thrombogenic potentials. The means for correcting the high plasma levels of Lp(a) are still limited in effectiveness. All drug therapies tried thus far have failed. The most effective therapeutic methods in lowering Lp(a) are the LDL-apheresismethods. Since 1993, special immunoadsorption polyclonal antibody columns (Pocard, Moscow, Russia) containing sepharose bound anti-Lp(a) have been available for the treatment of patients with elevated Lp(a) serum concentrations.

With respect to elevated lipoprotein (a) levels, however, the immunoadsorption method seems to be most effective. The different published data clearly demonstrate that treatment with LDL-apheresis in patients suffering from severe hyperlipidemia refractory to maximum conservative therapy is effective and safe in long-term application.

LDL-apheresis decreases not only LDL mass but also improves the patient’s life expectancy. LDL-apheresis performed with different techniques decreases the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation. This decrease may be related to a temporary mass imbalance between freshly produced and older LDL particles. Furthermore, the baseline fatty acid pattern influences pretreatment and postreatment susceptibility to oxidation.

Bambauer R, Bambauer C, Lehmann B, Latza R, and Ralf Schiel R. LDL-Apheresis: Technical and Clinical Aspects. The Scientific World Journal 2012; Article ID 314283, pp 1-19. doi:10.1100/2012/314283

Summary:  This discussion is a two part sequence that first establishes the known strong relationship between blood flow viscosity, shear stress, and plasma triglycerides (VLDL) as risk factors for hemostatic disorders leading to thromboembolic disease, and the association with atherosclerotic disease affecting the heart, the brain (via carotid blood flow), peripheral circulation,the kidneys, and retinopathy as well.

The second part discusses the modeling of hemostasis and takes into account the effects of plasma proteins involved with red cell and endothelial interaction, which is related to part I.  The current laboratory assessment of thrombophilias is taken from a consensus document of the American Society for Clinical Pathology.  The problems encountered are sufficient for the most common problems of coagulation testing and monitoring, but don’t address the large number of patients who are at risk for complications of accelerated vasoconstrictive systemic disease that precede serious hemostatic problems.  Special attention is given to Lp(a) and to homocysteine.  Lp(a) is a protein that has both prothrombotic and antithrombotic characteristics, and is a homologue of plasminogen and is composed of an apo(a) bound to LDL.  Unlike plasminogen, it has no protease activity.   Homocysteine elevation is a known risk factor for downstream myocardial infarct.  Homocysteine is a mirror into sulfur metabolism, so an increase is an independent predictor of risk, not fully discussed here.  The modification of risk is discussed by diet modification.  In the most serious cases of lipoprotein disorders, often including Lp(a) the long term use of LDL-apheresis is described.

see Relevent article that appears in NEJM from American College of Cardiology

Apolipoprotein(a) Genetic Sequence Variants Associated With Systemic Atherosclerosis and Coronary Atherosclerotic Burden but Not With Venous Thromboembolism

Helgadottir A, Gretarsdottir S, Thorleifsson G, et al

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2012;60:722-729

Study Summary

The LPA gene codes for apolipoprotein(a), which, when linked with low-density lipoprotein particles, forms lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] — a well-studied molecule associated with coronary artery disease (CAD). The Lp(a) molecule has both atherogenic and thrombogenic effects in vitro , but the extent to which these translate to differences in how atherothrombotic disease presents is unknown.

LPA contains many single-nucleotide polymorphisms, and 2 have been identified by previous groups as being strongly associated with levels of Lp(a) and, as a consequence, strongly associated with CAD. However, because atherosclerosis is thought to be a systemic disease, it is unclear to what extent Lp(a) leads to atherosclerosis in other arterial beds (eg, carotid, abdominal aorta, and lower extremity), as well as to other thrombotic disorders (eg, ischemic/cardioembolic stroke and venous thromboembolism). Such distinctions are important, because therapies that might lower Lp(a) could potentially reduce forms of atherosclerosis beyond the coronary tree.

To answer this question, Helgadottir and colleagues compiled clinical and genetic data on the LPA gene from thousands of previous participants in genetic research studies from across the world. They did not have access to Lp(a) levels, but by knowing the genotypes for 2 LPA variants, they inferred the levels of Lp(a) on the basis of prior associations between these variants and Lp(a) levels. [1] Their studies included not only individuals of white European descent but also a significant proportion of black persons, in order to widen the generalizability of their results.

Their main findings are that LPA variants (and, by proxy, Lp(a) levels) are associated with CAD,  peripheral arterial disease, abdominal aortic aneurysm, number of CAD vessels, age at onset of CAD diagnosis, and large-artery atherosclerosis-type stroke. They did not find an association with cardioembolic or small-vessel disease-type stroke; intracranial aneurysm; venous thrombosis; carotid intima thickness; or, in a small subset of individuals, myocardial infarction.


The main conclusion to draw from this work is that Lp(a) is probably a strong causal factor in not only CAD, but also the development of atherosclerosis in other arterial trees. Although there is no evidence from this study that Lp(a) levels contribute to venous thrombosis, the investigators do not exclude a role for Lp(a) in arterial thrombosis.

Large-artery atherosclerosis stroke is thought to involve some element of arterial thrombosis or thromboembolism, [2] and genetic substudies of randomized trials of aspirin demonstrate that individuals with LPA variants predicted to have elevated levels of Lp(a) benefit the most from antiplatelet therapy. [3] Together, these data suggest that Lp(a) probably has clinically relevant effects on the development of atherosclerosis and arterial thrombosis.

Of  note, the investigators found no association between Lp(a) and carotid intima thickness, suggesting that either intima thickness is a poor surrogate for the clinical manifestations of atherosclerosis or that Lp(a) affects a distinct step in the atherosclerotic disease process that is not demonstrable in the carotid arteries.

Although Lp(a) testing is available, these studies do not provide any evidence that testing for Lp(a) is of clinical benefit, or that screening for atherosclerosis should go beyond well-described clinical risk factors, such as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, high-density lipoprotein levels, hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and family history. Until evidence demonstrates that adding information on Lp(a) levels to routine clinical practice improves the ability of physicians to identify those at highest risk for atherosclerosis, Lp(a) testing should remain a research tool. Nevertheless, these findings do suggest that therapies to lower Lp(a) may have benefits that extend to forms of atherothrombosis beyond the coronary tree.

The finding of this study is interesting:

[1] It consistent with Dr. William LaFramboise..   examination specifically at APO B100, which is part of Lp(a) with some 14 candidate predictors for a more accurate exclusion of patients who don’t need intervention.          Apo B100 was not one of 5 top candidates.

William LaFramboise • Our study ( comprised discovery research using targeted immunochemical screening of retrospective patient samples using both Luminex and Aushon platforms as opposed to shotgun proteomics. Hence the costs constrained sample numbers. Nevertheless, our ability to predict outcome substantially exceeded available methods:

The Framingham CHD scores were statistically different between groups (P <0.001, unpaired Student’s t test) but they classified only 16% of the subjects without significant CAD (10 of 63) at a 95% sensitivity for patients with CAD. In contrast, our algorithm incorporating serum values for OPN, RES, CRP, MMP7 and IFNγ identified 63% of the subjects without significant CAD (40 of 63) at 95% sensitivity for patients with CAD. Thus, our multiplex serum protein classifier correctly identified four times as many patients as the Framingham index.

This study is consistent with the concept of CAD, PVD, and atheromatous disease is a systemic vascular disease, but the point that is made is that it appears to have no relationship to venous thrombosis. The importance for predicting thrombotic events is considered serious.   The venous flow does not have the turbulence of large arteries, so the conclusion is no surprise.  The flow in capillary beds is a linear cell passage with minimal viscosity or turbulence.  The finding of no association with carotid artery disease  is interpreted to mean that the Lp(a) might be an earlier finding than carotid intimal thickness.  It is reassuring to find a recommendation for antiplatelet therapy for individuals with LPA variants based on randomized trials of aspirin substudies.

If that is the conclusion from the studies, and based on the strong association between the prothrombotic (pleiotropic) effect and the association with hyperhomocysteinemia, my own impression is that the recommendation is short-sighted.

[2]  Lp(a) is able to competitively inhibit the binding of plasminogen to fibrinogen and fibrin, and to inhibit the fibrin-dependent activation of plasminogen to plasmin via the tissue plasminogen activator, whereby apo(a) isoforms of low molecular weight have a higher affinity to fibrin than apo(a) isoforms of higher molecular weight. Like other compounds containing sulfhydryl groups, homocysteine enhances the binding of Lp(a) to fibrin.

Prothrombotic :

  • Binding to fibrin
  • Competitive inhibition of plasminogen
  • Stimulation of plasminogen activator inhibitor I and II (PAI -I, PAI -II)
  • Inactivation of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI)

Source for Lp(a)

Artherogenesis: Predictor of CVD – the Smaller and Denser LDL Particles

References on Triglycerides and blood viscosity

Lowe GD, Lee AJ, Rumley A, et al. Blood viscosity and risk of cardiovascular events: the Edinburgh Artery Study. Br J Haematol 1997; 96:168-173.

Sloop GD. A unifying theory of atherogenesis. Med Hypotheses. 1996; 47:321-5.
Smith WC, Lowe GD, et al. Rheological determinants of blood pressure in a Scottish adult population. J Hypertens 1992; 10:467-72.

Letcher RL, Chien S, et al. Direct relationship between blood pressure and blood viscosity in normal and hypertensive subjects. Role of fibrinogen and concentration. Am J Med 1981; 70:1195-1202.

Devereux RB, Case DB, Alderman MH, et al. Possible role of increased blood viscosity in the hemodynamics of systemic hypertension. Am J Cardiol 2000; 85:1265-1268.

Levenson J, Simon AC, Cambien FA, Beretti C. Cigarette smoking and hypertension. Factors independently associated with blood hyperviscosity and arterial rigidity. Arteriosclerosis 1987; 7:572-577.

Sloop GD, Garber DW. The effects of low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein on blood viscosity correlate with their association with risk of atherosclerosis in humans. Clin Sci 1997; 92:473-479.

Lowe GD. Blood viscosity, lipoproteins, and cardiovascular risk. Circulation 1992; 85:2329-2331.

Rosenson RS, Shott S, Tangney CC. Hypertriglyceridemia is associated with an elevated blood viscosity: triglycerides and blood viscosity. Atherosclerosis 2002; 161:433-9.

Stamos TD, Rosenson RS. Low high density lipoprotein levels are associated with an elevated blood viscosity. Atherosclerosis 1999; 146:161-5.

Hoieggen A, Fossum E, Moan A, Enger E, Kjeldsen SE. Whole-blood viscosity and the insulin-resistance syndrome. J Hypertens 1998; 16:203-10.

de Simone G, Devereux RB, Chien S, et al. Relation of blood viscosity to demographic and physiologic variables and to cardiovascular risk factors in apparently normal adults. Circulation 1990; 81:107-17.

Rosenson RS, McCormick A, Uretz EF. Distribution of blood viscosity values and biochemical correlates in healthy adults. Clin Chem 1996; 42:1189-95.

Tamariz LJ, Young JH, Pankow JS, et al. Blood viscosity and hematocrit as risk factors for type 2 diabetes mellitus: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) Study. Am J Epidemiol 2008; 168:1153-60.

Jax TW, Peters AJ, Plehn G, Schoebel FC. Hemostatic risk factors in patients with coronary artery disease and type 2 diabetes – a two year follow-up of 243 patients. Cardiovasc Diabetol 2009; 8:48.

Ernst E, Weihmayr T, et al. Cardiovascular risk factors and hemorheology. Physical fitness, stress and obesity. Atherosclerosis 1986; 59:263-9.

Hoieggen A, Fossum E, et al. Whole-blood viscosity and the insulin-resistance syndrome. J Hypertens 1998; 16:203-10.

Carroll S, Cooke CB, Butterly RJ. Plasma viscosity, fibrinogen and the metabolic syndrome: effect of obesity and cardiorespiratory fitness. Blood Coagul Fibrinolysis 2000; 11:71-8.

Ernst E, Koenig W, Matrai A, et al. Blood rheology in healthy cigarette smokers. Results from the MONICA project, Augsburg. Arteriosclerosis 1988; 8:385-8.

Ernst E. Haemorheological consequences of chronic cigarette smoking. J Cardiovasc Risk 1995; 2:435-9.

Lowe GD, Drummond MM, Forbes CD, Barbenel JC. The effects of age and cigarette-smoking on blood and plasma viscosity in men. Scott Med J 1980; 25:13-7.

Kameneva MV, Watach MJ, Borovetz HS. Gender difference in rheologic properties of blood and risk of cardiovascular diseases. Clin Hemorheol Microcirc 1999; 21:357-363.

Fowkes FG, Pell JP, Donnan PT, et al. Sex differences in susceptibility to etiologic factors for peripheral atherosclerosis. Importance of plasma fibrinogen and blood viscosity. Arterioscler Thromb 1994; 14:862-8.

Coppola L, Caserta F, De Lucia D, et al. Blood viscosity and aging. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2000; 31:35-42.



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Nitric Oxide, Platelets, Endothelium and Hemostasis (Coagulation Part II)

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 

Subtitle: Nitric oxide and hemostatic mechanisms.  Part II.

Summary: This is the second of a coagulation series on

Treating the diverse effects of NO on platelets, the coagulation cascade, and protein-membrane interactions with low flow states, local and systemic inflammatory disease, oxidative stress, and hematologic disorders.  It is highly complex as the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic pathways become blurred as a result of  endothelial shear stress, distinctly different than penetrating or traumatic injury.  In addition, other factors that come into play are also considered.

Please refer to Part I. Coagulation Pathway

The workhorse tests of the modern coagulation laboratory, the prothrombin time (PT) and the activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), are the basis for the published extrinsic and intrinsic coagulation pathways.  This is, however, a much simpler model than one encounters delving into the mechanism and interactions involved in hemostasis and thrombosis, or in hemorrhagic disorders.

We first note that there are three components of the hemostatic system in all vertebrates:

  • Platelets,
  • vascular endothelium, and
  • plasma proteins.

The liver is the largest synthetic organ, which synthesizes

  • albumin,
  • acute phase proteins,
  • hormonal and metal binding proteins,
  • albumin,
  • IGF-1, and
  • prothrombin, mainly responsible for the distinction between plasma and serum (defibrinated plasma).

Role of vascular endothelium.

I have identified the importance of prothrombin, thrombin, and the divalent cation Ca 2+ (1% of the total body pool), mention of heparin action, and of vitamin K (inhibited by warfarin).  Endothelial functions are inherently related to procoagulation and anticoagulation. The subendothelial matrix is a complex of many materials, most important related to coagulation being collagen and von Willebrand factor.

What about extrinsic and intrinsic pathways?  Tissue factor, when bound to factor VIIa, is the major activator of the extrinsic pathway of coagulation. Classically, tissue factor is not present in the plasma but only presented on cell surfaces at a wound site, which is “extrinsic” to the circulation.  Or is it that simple?

Endothelium is the major synthetic and storage site for von Willebrand factor (vWF).  vWF is…

  • secreted from the endothelial cell both into the plasma and also
  • abluminally into the subendothelial matrix, and
  • acts as the intercellular glue binding platelets to one another and also to the subendothelial matrix at an injury site.
  • acts as a carrier protein for factor VIII (antihemophilic factor).
  • It  binds to the platelet glycoprotein Ib/IX/V receptor and
  • mediates platelet adhesion to the vascular wall under shear. [Lefkowitz JB. Coagulation Pathway and Physiology. Chapter I. in Hemostasis Physiology. In ( ???), pp1-12].

Ca++ and phospholipids are necessary for all of the reactions that result in the activation of prothrombin to thrombin. Coagulation is initiated by an extrinsic mechanism that

  • generates small amounts of factor Xa, which in turn
  • activates small amounts of thrombin.

The tissue factor/factorVIIa proteolysis of factor X is quickly inhibited by tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI).The small amounts of thrombin generated from the initial activation feedback

  • to create activated cofactors, factors Va and VIIIa, which in turn help to
  • generate more thrombin.
  • Tissue factor/factor VIIa is also capable of indirectly activating factor X through the activation of factor IX to factor IXa.
  • Finally, as more thrombin is created, it activates factor XI to factor XIa, thereby enhancing the ability to ultimately make more thrombin.

The reconceptualization of hemostasis 

The common theme in activation and regulation of plasma coagulation is the reduction in dimensionality. Most reactions take place in a 2D world that will increase the efficiency of the reactions dramatically. The localization and timing of the coagulation processes are also dependent on the formation of protein complexes on the surface of membranes. The coagulation processes can also be controlled by certain drugs that destroy the membrane binding ability of some coagulation proteins – these proteins will be lost in the 3D world and not able to form procoagulant complexes on surfaces.

Assembly of proteins on membranes – making a 3D world flat

• The timing and efficiency of coagulation processes are handled by reduction in dimensionality

– Make 3 dimensions to 2 dimensions

• Coagulation proteins have membrane binding capacity

• Membranes provide non-coagulant and procoagulant surfaces

– Intact cells/activated cells

• Membrane binding is a target for anticoagulant drugs

– Anti-vitamin K (e.g. warfarin)

Modern View

It can be divided into the phases of initiation, amplification and propagation.

  • In the initiation phase, small amounts of thrombin can be formed after exposure of tissue factor to blood.
  • In the amplification phase, the traces of thrombin will be inactivated or used for amplification of the coagulation process.

At this stage there is not enough thrombin to form insoluble fibrin. In order to proceed further thrombin  activates platelets, which provide a procoagulant surface for the coagulation factors. Thrombin will also activate the vital cofactors V and VIII that will assemble on the surface of activated platelets. Thrombin can also activate factor XI, which is important in a feedback mechanism.

In the final step, the propagation phase, the highly efficient tenase and prothrombinase complexes have been assembled on the membrane surface. This yields large amounts of thrombin at the site of injury that can cleave fibrinogen to insoluble fibrin. Factor XI activation by thrombin then activates factor IX, which leads to the formation of more tenase complexes. This ensures enough thrombin is formed, despite regulation of the initiating TF-FVIIa complex, thus ensuring formation of a stable fibrin clot. Factor XIII stabilizes the fibrin clot through crosslinking when activated by thrombin.

Platelet Aggregation

The activities of adenylate and guanylate cyclase and cyclic nucleotide 3′:5′-phosphodiesterase were determined during the aggregation of human blood platelets with

  • thrombin, ADP,
  • arachidonic acid and
  • epinephrine.

[Aggregation is dependent on an intact release mechanism since inhibition of aggregation occurred with adenosine, colchicine, or EDTA.  (Herman GE, Seegers WH, Henry RL. Autoprothrombin ii-a, thrombin, and epinephrine: interrelated effects on platelet aggregation. Bibl Haematol 1977;44:21-7)].

  1. The platelet guanylate cyclase activity during aggregation depends on the nature and mode of action of the inducing agent.
  2. The membrane adenylate cyclase activity during aggregation is independent of the aggregating agent and is associated with a reduction of activity and
  3. Cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase remains unchanged during the process of platelet aggregation and release.

The role of platelets in arterial thrombosis

Formation of a thrombus on a ruptured plaque is the product of a complex interaction between coagulation factors in the plasma and platelets.

  • Tissue factor (TF) released from the subendothelial tissue after endothelial damage induces a cascade of activation of coagulation factors ultimately leading to the formation of thrombin.
  • Thrombin cleaves fibrinogen to fibrin, which assembles into a mesh that supports the platelet aggregates.

The Platelet

The platelets are …

  • anucleated,
  • discoid shaped cell fragments
  • originating from megakaryocytes
  •  fragmented as they are released from the bone marrow

Whether they can in circumstances be developed at extramedullary sites (liver sinusoid) is another matter. They have a lifespan of 7-10 days.  Of special interest is:

  • They have a network of internal membranes forming a dense tubular system and the open canalicular system (OCS).
  • The plasma membrane is an extension of the OCS, thereby greatly increasing the surface area of the platelet.
  • The dense tubular system is comparable to the endoplasmatic reticulum in other cell types and is the main storage place of the majority of the platelet’s Ca2+.

Three types of secretory granules exist in platelets:

  • the dense granules
    •  In the dense granules serotonin
    • adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and
    • Ca2+ are stored.
    • a-granules contain
      • P-selectin,
      • fibrinogen,
      •  thrombospondin,
      • Von Willebrand Factor,
      • platelet factor 4 and
      • platelet derived growth factor
      • lysosomes.

Circulating platelets are kept in a resting state by endothelial cell derived

  • prostacyclin (PGI2) and
  • nitric oxide (NO).

PGI2 increases cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), the most potent platelet inhibitor.

Contact activation

The major regulator of the activation of the contact system is the plasma protease inhibitor, C1-INH, which inhibits activated fXII, kallikrein and fXIa. In addition, α2-macroglobulin is an important inhibitor of kallikrein and α1-antitrypsin for fXIa. Factor XII also converts the fXI to an active enzyme, fXIa, which, in turn, converts fIX to fIXa, thereby activating the intrinsic pathway of coagulation.


Several agonists can activate platelets;

  • ADP,
  • collagen,
  • thromboxane A2 (TxA2),
  • epinephrin,
  • serotonine and
  • thrombin,

which lead to activation previously referred to:

  • platelet shape change is
  • followed by aggregation and
  • granule secretion.

Upon activation the discoid shape changes into a spherical form.

Activation of platelets is increased by two positive feedback loops

  1. arachidonic acid is cleaved from phospholipids and transformed by cyclooxygenase

(COX) to prostaglandin G2 and H2,

  • followed by the formation of TxA2, a potent platelet agonist.

2.   the secretion of ADP by the dense granules,

  • resulting in activation of the ADP receptor P2Y12.

This causes inhibition of cyclic AMP and sustained aggregation.


The integrin receptor αIIbβ3 plays a vital role in platelet aggregation. The platelet agonists

  • induce a conformational change of the αIIbβ3 receptor and
  • exposition of binding domains for fibrinogen and von Willebrand Factor.

This allows cross-linking of platelets and the formation of aggregates.

In addition to shape change and aggregation, the membranes of the α- and dense granules fuse with the membranes of the OCS. This causes the release of their contents and the transportation of proteins embedded in their membrane to the plasma membrane.

This complex interaction between

  • endothelial cells
  • clotting factors
  • platelets and
  • other factors and cells

can be studied in both in vitro and in vivo model systems. The disadvantage of in vitro assays is that it studies the role of a certain protein or cell in isolation. Given the large number of participants and the complex interactions of thrombus formation there is need to study thrombosis and hemostasis in intact living animals, with all the components important for thrombus formation – a vessel wall and flowing blood – present.

Endothelial Damage and Role as “Primer”

  • Endothelial injury changes the permeability of the arterial wall.
  • This is followed by an influx of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
  • This elicits an inflammatory response in the vascular wall.
  • Monocytes and T-cells bind to the endothelial cells promoting increased migration of the cells into the intima layer
  • The monocytes differentiate into macrophages, which take up modified lipoproteins and transform them into foam cells.
  • Concurrent with this process macrophages produce cytokines and proteases.

This is a vicious circle of lipid driven inflammation that leads to narrowing of the vessel’s lumen without early clinical consequences. Clinical manifestations of more advanced atherosclerotic disease are caused by destabilization of an atherosclerotic plaque formed as described.

  • The first recognizable lesion of the stable atherosclerotic plaque is the fatty streak, which consists of the above described foam cells and T-lymphocytes in the intima.
  • Further development of the lesion leads to the intermediate lesion, composed
  • of layers of macrophages and smooth muscle cells.
  • A more advanced stage is called the vulnerable plaque.
    • It has a large lipid core that is covered by a thin fibrous cap.
    • This cap separates the lipid contents of the plaque from the circulating blood.
    • The vulnerable plaque is prone to rupture, resulting in the formation of a thrombus on the site of disruption or the thrombus can be superimposed on plaque erosion without signs of plaque rupture.

The formation of a superimposed thrombus on a disrupted atherosclerotic plaque in the lumen of the artery leads to

  • an acute occlusion of the vessel
  • hypoxia of the downstream tissue.

Depending on the location of the atherosclerotic plaque this will cause a myocardial infarction, stroke or peripheral vascular disease.

Endothelial regulation of coagulation

The endothelium attenuates platelet activity by releasing

  • nitric oxide and
  • prostacyclin.

Several coagulation inhibitors are produced by endothelial cells.

Endothelium-derived TFPI (on its surface) is rapidly released into circulation after heparin administration, reducing the pro-coagulant activities of TF-fVIIa. Endothelial cells also secrete heparin-sulphate, a glycosaminoglycan which catalyzes anti-coagulant activity of AT. Plasma AT binds to heparin-sulphate located on the luminal surface and in the basement membrane of the endothelium. Thrombomodulin is another endothelium-bound protein with anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory functions. In response to systemic pro-coagulant stimuli, tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) is transiently released from the Weibel-Palade bodies of endothelial cells to promote fibrinolysis. Downstream of the vascular injury, the complex of TF-fVIIa/fXa is inhibited by TFPI. Plasma (free) fXa and thrombin are rapidly neutralized by heparan-bound AT. Thrombin is also taken up by endothelial surface-bound thrombomodulin.

The protein C pathway works in hemostasis to control thrombin formation in the area surrounding the clot. Thrombin, generated via the coagulation pathway, is localized to the endothelium by binding to the integral membrane protein, thrombomodulin (TM). TM by occupying exosite I on thrombin, which is required for fibrinogen binding and cleavage, reduces thrombin’s pro-coagulant activities. TM bound thrombin  on the endothelial cell surface is able to cleave PC producing activated protein C (APC), a serine protease.  In the presence of protein S, APC inactivates FVa and FVIIIa. The proteolytic activity of APC is regulated predominantly by a protein C inhibitor.

Fibrinolytic pathway

Fibrinolysis is the physiological breakdown of fibrin to limit and resolve blood clots. Fibrin is degraded primarily by the serine protease, plasmin, which circulates as plasminogen. In an auto-regulatory manner, fibrin serves as both the co-factor for the activation of plasminogen and the substrate for plasmin. In the presence of fibrin, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) cleaves plasminogen producing plasmin, which proteolyzes the fibrin. This reaction produces the protein fragment D-dimer, which is a useful marker of fibrinolysis, and a marker of thrombin activity because fibrin is cleaved from fibrinogen to fibrin.

Nitric Oxide and Platelet Energy Production

Nitric oxide (NO) has been increasingly recognized as an important intra- and intercellular messenger molecule with a physiological role in

  • vascular relaxation
  • platelet physiology
  • neurotransmission and
  • immune responses.

In vitro NO is a strong inhibitor of platelet adhesion and aggregation. In the blood stream, platelets remain in contact with NO that is permanently released from the endothelial cells and from activated macrophages. It  has been suggested that the activated platelet itself is able to produce NO. It has been proposed that the main intracellular target for NO in platelets is soluble cytosolic guanylate cyclase. NO activates the enzyme. When activated, intracellular cGMP elevation inhibits platelet activation. Further, elevated cGMP may not be the sole factor directly involved in the inhibition of platelet activation.

The reaction mechanism of Nitric oxide synthase

The reaction mechanism of Nitric oxide synthase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Platelets are fairly active metabolically and have a total ATP turnover rate of about 3–8 times that of resting mammalian muscle. Platelets contain mitochondria which enable these cells to produce energy both in the oxidative and anaerobic pathways.

  • Under aerobic conditions, ATP is produced by aerobic glycolysis which can account for 30–50% of total ATP production,
  • by oxidative metabolism using glucose and glycogen (6–11%), amino-acids (7%) or free fatty acids (20–40%).

The inhibition of mitochondrial respiration by removing oxygen or by respiratory chain blockers (antimycin A, cyanide, rotenone) results in the stimulation of glycolytic flux. This phenomenon indicates that in platelets glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration are tightly functionally connected. It has been reported that the activation of human platelets by high concentration of thrombin is accompanied by an acceleration of lactate production and an increase in oxygen consumption.

The results (in porcine platelets) indicate that:

  • NO is able to diminish mitochondrial energy production through the inhibition of cytochrome oxidase
  • The inhibitory effect of NO on platelet secretion (but not aggregation) can be attributed to the reduction of mitochondrial energy production.

Porcine blood platelets stimulated by collagen produce more lactate. This indicates that both glycolytic and oxidative ATP production supports platelet responses, and blocking of energy production in platelets may decrease their responses. It is well established that platelet responses have different metabolic energy (ATP) requirements increasing in the order:

  • Aggregation
  • < dense and alfa granule secretion
  • < acid hydrolase secretion.

In addition, exogenously added NO (in the form of NO donors) stimulates glycolysis in intact porcine platelets. Since in platelets glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration are tightly functionally connected, this indicates the stimulatory effect of NO on glycolysis in intact platelets may be produced by non-functional mitochondria.

Can this be the case?

  • NO donors are able to inhibit both mitochondrial respiration and platelet cytochrome oxidase.
  • Interestingly, the concentrations of NO donors inhibiting mitochondrial respiration and cytochrome oxidase were similar to those stimulating glycolysis in intact platelets.

Studies have shown that mitochondrial complex I is inhibited only after a prolonged (6–18 h) exposure to NO and

  • This inhibition appears to result from S-nitrosylation of critical thiols in the enzyme complex.
  • Further studies are needed to establish whether long term exposure of platelets to NO affects Mitochondrial complexes I and II.

Comparison of the concentrations of SNAP and SNP affecting cytochrome oxidase activity and mitochondrial respiration with those reducing the platelet responses indicates that NO does not reduce platelet aggregation through the inhibition of oxidative energy production. The concentrations of the NO donors inhibiting platelet secretion, mitochondrial respiration and cytochrome oxidase were similar. Thus, the platelet release reaction strongly depends on the oxidative energy production, and  in porcine platelets NO inhibits mitochondrial energy production at the step of cytochrome oxidase.

Taking into account that platelets may contain NO synthase and are able to produce significant amounts of NO it seems possible that nitric oxide can function in these cells as a physiological regulator of mitochondrial energy production.

Key words: glycolysis, mitochondrial energy production, nitric oxide, porcine platelets.
Abbreviations: NO, nitric oxide; SNAP, S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicyllamine; SNP, sodium nitroprusside.

[M Tomasiak, H Stelmach, T Rusak and J Wysocka.  Nitric oxide and platelet energy metabolism.  Acta Biochimica Polonica 2004; 51(3):789–803.]

Nitric Oxide and Platelet Adhesion

The adhesion of human platelets to monolayers of bovine endothelial cells in culture was studied to determine the role of endothelium-derived nitric oxide in the regulation of platelet adhesion. The adhesion of unstimulated and thrombin-stimulated platelets, washed and labelled with indium-111, was lower in the presence than in the absence of bradykinin or exogenous nitric oxide. The inhibitory action of both bradykinin and nitric oxide was abolished by hemoglobin, but not by aspirin, and was potentiated by superoxide dismutase to a similar degree. It appears that the effect of bradykinin is mediated by the release of nitric oxide from the endothelial cells, and that nitric oxide release contributes to the non-adhesive properties of vascular endothelium.

(Radomski MW, Palmer RMJ, Moncada S.   Endogenous Nitric Oxide Inhibits Human Platelet Adhesion to Vascular Endothelium. The Lancet  1987 330; 8567(2): 1057–1058.

1 The interactions between endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) and prostacyclin as inhibitors of platelet aggregation were examined to determine whether release of NO accounts for the inhibition of platelet aggregation attributed to EDRF.

2 Porcine aortic endothelial cells treated with indomethacin and stimulated with bradykinin (10-100 nM) released NO in quantities sufficient to account for the inhibition of platelet aggregation attributed to endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF).

3 In the absence of indomethacin, stimulation of the cells with bradykinin (1-3 nM) released small amounts of prostacyclin and EDRF which synergistically inhibited platelet aggregation.

4 EDRF and authentic NO also caused disaggregation of platelets aggregated either with collagen or with U46619.

5 A reciprocal potentiation of both the anti- and the disaggregating activity was also observed between low concentrations of prostacyclin and authentic NO or EDRF released from endothelial cells.

6 It is likely that interactions between prostacyclin and NO released by the endothelium play a role in the homeostatic regulation of platelet-vessel wall interactions.

(Radomski MW, Palmer RMJ & Moncada S. The anti-aggregating properties of vascular endothelium: interactions between prostacyclin and nitric oxide. Br J Pharmac 1987; 92: 639-646.


Factor Xa–Nitric Oxide Signaling

Although primarily recognized for maintaining the hemostatic balance, blood proteases of the coagulation and fibrinolytic cascades elicit rapid cellular responses in

  • vascular
  • mesenchymal
  • inflammatory cell types.

Considerable effort has been devoted to elucidate the molecular interface between protease-dependent signaling and pleiotropic cellular responses. This led to the identification of several membrane protease receptors, initiating intracellular signal transduction and effector functions in vascular cells. In this context, thrombin receptor activation

  • generated second messengers in endothelium and smooth muscle cells,
  • released inflammatory cytokines from monocytes, fibroblasts, and endothelium, and
  • increased the expression of leukocyte-endothelial cell adhesion molecules.

Similarly, binding of factor Xa to effector cell protease receptor-1 (EPR-1) participated in

  • in vivo acute inflammatory responses,
  • platelet and brain pericyte prothrombinase activity, and
  • endothelial cell and smooth muscle cell signaling and proliferation.

Factor Xa stimulated a 5- to 10-fold increased release of nitric oxide (NO) in a dose-dependent reaction (0.1–2.5 mgyml) unaffected by the thrombin inhibitor hirudin but abolished by active site inhibitors, tick anticoagulant peptide, or Glu-Gly-Arg-chloromethyl ketone. In contrast, the homologous clotting protease factor IXa or another endothelial cell ligand, fibrinogen, was ineffective.

A factor Xa inter-epidermal growth factor synthetic peptide L83FTRKL88(G) blocking ligand binding to effector cell protease receptor-1 inhibited NO release by factor Xa in a dose-dependent manner, whereas a control scrambled peptide KFTGRLL was ineffective.

Catalytically active factor Xa induced hypotension in rats and vasorelaxation in the isolated rat mesentery, which was blocked by the NO synthase inhibitor L-NG-nitroarginine methyl ester (LNAME) but not by D-NAME. Factor Xa/NO signaling also produced a dose-dependent endothelial cell release of interleukin 6 (range 0.55–3.1 ngyml) in a reaction

  • inhibited by L-NAME and by the
  • inter-epidermal growth factor peptide Leu83–Leu88 but
  • unaffected by hirudin.
We observe that incubation of HUVEC monolayers with factor Xa which resulted in a concentration-dependent release of NO, as determined by cGMP accumulation in these cells, was inhibited by the nitric oxide synthase antagonist L-NAME.

Catalytically inactive DEGR-factor Xa or TAP-treated factor Xa failed to stimulate NO release by HUVEC.

To determine whether factor Xa-induced NO release could also modulate acute phase/inflammatory cytokine gene expression we examined potential changes in IL-6 release following HUVEC stimulation with factor Xa. HUVEC stimulation with factor Xa resulted in a concentration-dependent release of IL-6.

The specificity of factor Xa-induced cytokine release was investigated. Factor Xa-induced IL-6 release from HUVEC was quantitatively indistinguishable from that obtained with tumor necrosis factor-a or thrombin stimulation. This response was abolished by heat denaturation of factor Xa.

Maximal induction of interleukin 6 mRNA required a brief, 30-min stimulation with factor Xa, and was unaffected by subsequent addition of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI). These data suggest that factor Xa-induced NO release modulates endothelial cell-dependent vasorelaxation and IL-6 cytokine gene expression.

Here, we find that factor Xa induces the release of endothelial cell NO

  • regulating vasorelaxation in vivo and acute response cytokine gene expression in vitro.

This pathway requires a dual step cascade, involving

  • binding of factor Xa to EPR-1 and
  • a secondary as yet unidentified protease activated mechanism.

This pathway requiring factor Xa binding to effector cell protease receptor-1 and a secondary step of ligand-dependent proteolysis may preserve an anti-thrombotic phenotype of endothelium but also trigger acute phase responses during activation of coagulation in vivo.

In summary, these investigators have identified a signaling pathway centered on the ability of factor Xa to rapidly stimulate endothelial cell NO release. This involves a two-step cascade initiated by catalytic active site-independent binding of factor Xa to its receptor, EPR-1, followed by a second step of ligand dependent proteolysis.

(Papapetropoulos A, Piccardoni P, Cirino G, Bucci M, et al. Hypotension and inflammatory cytokine gene expression triggered by factor Xa–nitric oxide signaling. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. Pharmacology. 1998; 95:4738–4742.)

Platelets and liver disease

Thrombocytopenia is a marked feature of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Traditionally, this thrombocytopenia was attributed to passive platelet sequestration in the spleen. More recent insights suggest an increased platelet breakdown and to a lesser extent decreased platelet production plays a more important role. Besides the reduction in number, other studies suggest functional platelet defects. This platelet dysfunction is probably both intrinsic to the platelets and secondary to soluble plasma factors. It reflects not only a decrease in aggregability, but also an activation of the intrinsic inhibitory pathways. (Witters P, Freson K, Verslype C, Peerlinck K, et al. Review article: blood platelet number and function in chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008; 27: 1017–1029).

The shortcomings of the old Y-shaped model of normal coagulation are nowhere more apparent than in its clinical application to the complex coagulation disorders of acute and chronic liver disease. In this condition, the clotting cascade is heavily influenced by numerous currents and counter-currents resulting in a mixture of pro- and anticoagulant forces that are themselves further subject to change with altered physiological stress such as super-imposed infection or renal failure.

Multiple mechanisms exist for thrombocytopenia common in patients with cirrhosis besides hypersplenism and expected altered thrombopoietin metabolism. Increased production of two important endothelial derived platelet inhibitors

  • nitric oxide and
  • prostacyclin

may contribute to defective platelet activation in vivo. On the other hand, high plasma levels of vWF in cirrhosis appear to support platelet adhesion.

Reduced levels of coagulation factors V, VII, IX, X, XI, and prothrombin are also commonly observed in liver failure. Vitamin K–dependent clotting factors (II, VII, IX, X) may be defective in function as a result of decreased  y-carboxylation (from vitamin K deficiency or intrinsically impaired carboxylase activity). Fibrinogen levels are decreased with advanced cirrhosis and in patients with acute liver failure.

A hyperfibrinolytic state may develop when plasminogen activation by tPA is accelerated on the fibrin surface. Physiologic stress including infection may be key in tipping this process off through increased release of tPA.  Not uncommonly, laboratory abnormalities in decompensated cirrhosis come to resemble disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Relatively stable platelet levels and characteristically high factor VIII levels distinguish this process from DIC as does the absence of uncompensated thrombin generation. The features of both hyperfibrinolysis and DIC are often evident in the decompensated liver disease patient, and the term “accelerated intravascular coagulation and fibrinolysis” (AICF) has been proposed as a way to encapsulate the process under a single heading. The essence of AICF can be postulated to be the result of formation of a fibrin clot that is more susceptible to plasmin degradation due to elevated levels of tPA coupled with inadequate release of PAI to control tPA and lack of a-2 plasmin inhibitor to quench plasmin activity and the maintenance of high local concentrations of plasminogen on clot surfaces despite lower total plasminogen production. These normally balanced processes become pronounced when disturbed by additional stress such as infection.

Normal hemostasis and coagulation is now viewed as primarily a cell-based process wherein key steps in the classical clotting cascade

  • occur on the phospholipid membrane surface of cells (especially platelets)
  • beginning with activation of tissue factor and factor VII at the site of vascular breach
    •  which produces an initial “priming” amount of thrombin and a
    • subsequent thrombin burst.

Coagulation and hemostasis in the liver failure patient is influenced by multiple, often opposing, and sometimes changing variables. A bleeding diathesis is usually predominant, but the assessment of bleeding risk based on conventional laboratory tests is inherently deficient.

(Caldwell SH, Hoffman M, Lisman T, Gail Macik B, et al. Coagulation Disorders and Hemostasis in Liver Disease: Pathophysiology and Critical Assessment of Current Management. Hepatology 2006;44:1039-1046.)

Bleeding after Coronary Artery bypass Graft

Cardiac surgery with concomitant CPB can profoundly alter haemostasis, predisposing patients to major haemorrhagic complications and possibly early bypass conduit-related thrombotic events as well. Five to seven percent of patients lose more than 2 litres of blood within the first 24 hours after surgery, between 1% and 5% require re-operation for bleeding. Re-operation for bleeding increases hospital mortality 3 to 4 fold, substantially increases post-operative hospital stay and has a sizeable effect on health care costs. Nevertheless, re-exploration is a strong risk factor associated with increased operative mortality and morbidity, including sepsis, renal failure, respiratory failure and arrhythmias.

(Gábor Veres. New Drug Therapies Reduce Bleeding in Cardiac Surgery. Ph.D. Doctoral Dissertation. 2010. Semmelweis University)

Hypercoagulable State in Thalassemia

As the life expectancy of β-thalassemia patients has increased in the last decade, several new complications are being recognized. The presence of a high incidence of thromboembolic events, mainly in thalassemia intermedia patients, has led to the identification of a hypercoagulable state in thalassemia. Patients with thalassemia intermedia (TI) have, in general, a milder clinical phenotype than those with TM and remain largely transfusion independent. The pathophysiology of TI is characterized by extravascular hemolysis, with the release into the peripheral circulation of damaged red blood cells (RBCs) and erythroid precursors because of a high degree of ineffective erythropoiesis. This has also been recently attributed to severe complications such as pulmonary hypertension (PHT) and thromboembolic phenomena.

Many investigators have reported changes in the levels of coagulation factors and inhibitors in thalassemic patients. Prothrombin fragment 1.2 (F1.2), a marker of thrombin generation, is elevated in TI patients. The status of protein C and protein S was investigated in thalassemia in many studies and generally they were found to be decreased; this might be responsible for the occurrence of thromboembolic events in thalassemic patients.

The pathophysiological roles of hemolysis and the dysregulation of nitric oxide homeostasis are correlated with pulmonary hypertension in sickle cell disease and in thalassemia. Nitric oxide binds soluble guanylate cyclase, which converts GTP to cGMP, relaxing vascular smooth muscle and causing vasodilatation. When plasma hemoglobin liberated from intravascularly hemolyzed sickle erythrocytes consumes nitric oxide, the balance is shifted toward vasoconstriction. Pulmonary hypertension is aggravated and in sickle cell disease, it is linked to the intensity of hemolysis. Whether the same mechanism contributes to hypercoagulability in thalassemia is not yet known.

While there are diverse factors contributing to the hypercoagulable state observed in patients with thalassemia. In most cases, a combination of these abnormalities leads to clinical thrombosis. An argument has been made for the a higher incidence of thrombotic events in TI compared to TM patients  attributed to transfusion for TM. The higher rate of thrombosis in transfusion-independent TI compared to polytransused TM patients suggests a potential role for transfusions in decreasing the rate of thromboembolic events (TEE). The reduction of TEE in adequately transfused patients may be the result of decreased numbers of pathological RBCs.

(Cappellini MD, Musallam KM,  Marcon A, and Taher AT. Coagulopathy in Beta-Thalassemia: Current Understanding and Future Prospects. Medit J Hemat Infect Dis 2009; 1(1):22009029.
DOI 10.4084/MJHID.2009.0292.0),  ISSN 2035-3006.)

Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction

Severe sepsis, defined as sepsis associated with acute organ dysfunction, results from a generalized inflammatory and procoagulant host response to infection. Coagulopathy in severe sepsis is commonly associated with multiple organ dysfunction, and often results in death. The molecule that is central to these effects is thrombin, although it may also have anticoagulant and antithrombotic effects through the activation of Protein C and induction of prostacyclin. In recent years, it has been recognized that chemicals produced by endothelial cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis. Thrombomodulin on endothelial cells coverts Protein C to Activated Protein C, which has important antithrombotic, profibrinolytic and anti-inflammatory properties. A number of studies have shown that Protein C levels are reduced in patients with severe infection, or even in inflammatory states without infection. Because coagulopathy is associated with high mortality rates, and animal studies have indicated that therapeutic intervention may result in improved outcomes, it was rational to initiate clinical studies.

Considering the coagulation cascade as a whole, it is the extrinsic pathway (via TF and thrombin activation) rather than the intrinsic pathway that is of primary importance in sepsis. Once coagulation has been triggered by TF activation, leading to thrombin formation, this can have further procoagulant effects, because thrombin itself can activate factors VIII, IX and X. This is normally balanced by the production of anticoagulant factors, such as TF pathway inhibitor, antithrombin and Activated Protein C.

It has been recognized that endothelial cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis, and that they produce important regulators of both coagulation and inflammation. They can express or release a number of substances, such as TF, endothelin-1 and PAI-1, which promote the coagulation process, as well as other substances, such as antithrombin, thrombomodulin, nitric oxide and prostacyclin, which inhibit it.

Protein C is the source of Activated Protein C. Although Protein C is a biomarker or indicator of sepsis, it has no known specific biological activity. Protein C is converted to Activated Protein C in the presence of normal endothelium. In patients with severe sepsis, the vascular endothelium becomes damaged. The level of thrombomodulin is significantly decreased, and the body’s ability to convert Protein C to Activated Protein C diminishes. Only when activated does Protein C have antithrombotic, profibrinolytic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pat...

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pathways (Blood_Coagulation_and_Protein_C_Pathways.jpg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coagulation abnormalities can occur in all types of infection, including both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial infections, or even in the absence of infection, such as in inflammatory states secondary to trauma or neurosurgery. Interestingly, they can also occur in patients with localized disease, such as those with respiratory infection. In a study by Günther et al., procoagulant activity in bronchial lavage fluid from patients with pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome was found to be increased compared with that from control individuals, with a correlation between the severity of respiratory failure and level of coagulant activity.

Severe sepsis, defined as sepsis associated with acute organ dysfunction, results from a generalized inflammatory and procoagulant host response to infection.  Once the endothelium becomes damaged, levels of endothelial thrombomodulin significantly decrease, and the body’s ability to convert Protein C to Activated Protein C diminishes. The ultimate cause of acute organ dysfunction in sepsis is injury to the vascular endothelium, which can result in microvascular coagulopathy.

(Vincent JL. Microvascular endothelial dysfunction: a renewed appreciation of sepsis pathophysiology.
Critical Care 2001; 5:S1–S5.

Endothelial Cell Dysfunction in Severe Sepsis

During the past decade a unifying hypothesis has been developed to explain the vascular changes that occur in septic shock on the basis of the effect of inflammatory mediators on the vascular endothelium. The vascular endothelium plays a central role in the control of microvascular flow, and it has been proposed that widespread vascular endothelial activation, dysfunction and eventually injury occurs in septic shock, ultimately resulting in multiorgan failure. This has been characterized in various models of experimental septic shock. Now, direct and indirect evidence for endothelial cell alteration in humans during septic shock is emerging.

The vascular endothelium regulates the flow of nutrient substances, diverse biologically active molecules and the blood cells themselves. This role of endothelium is achieved through the presence of membrane-bound receptors for numerous molecules, including proteins, lipid transporting particles, metabolites and hormones, as well as through specific junction proteins and receptors that govern cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. Endothelial dysfunction and/or injury with subendothelium exposure facilitates leucocyte and platelet aggregation, and aggravation of coagulopathy. Therefore, endothelial dysfunction and/or injury should favour impaired perfusion, tissue hypoxia and subsequent organ dysfunction.

Anatomical damage to the endothelium during septic shock has been assessed in several studies. A single injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has long been demonstrated to be a nonmechanical technique for removing endothelium. In endotoxic rabbits, observations tend to demonstrate that EC surface modification occurs easily and rapidly, with ECs being detached from the internal elastic lamina with an indication of subendothelial oedema.  Proinflammatory cytokines increase permeability of the ECs, and this is manifested approximately 6 hours after inflammation is triggered and becomes maximal over 12–24 hours as the combination of cytokines exert potentiating effects. Endothelial physical disruption allows inflammatory fluid and cells to shift from the blood into the interstitial space.

In sepsis

  • ECs become injured, prothrombotic and antifibrinolytic
  • They promote platelet adhesion
  • They promote leucocyte adhesion and inhibit vasodilation

An important point is that EC injury is sustained over time. In an endotoxic rabbit model, we demonstrated that endothelium denudation is present at the level of the abdominal aorta as early as after several hours following injury and persisted for at least 5 days afterward. After 21 days we observed that the endothelial surface had recovered. The de-endothelialized surface accounted for approximately 25% of the total surface.

Thrombomodulin and protein C activation at the microcirculatory level.

The endothelial cell surface thrombin (Th)-binding protein thrombomodulin (TM) is responsible for inhibition of thrombin activity. TM, when bound to Th, forms a potent protein C activator complex. Loss of TM and/or internalization results in Th–thrombin receptor (TR) interaction. Loss of TM and associated protein C activation represents the key event of decreased endothelial coagulation modulation ability and increased inflammation pathways.
( Iba T, Kidokoro A, Yagi Y: The role of the endothelium in changes in procoagulant activity in sepsis. J Am Coll Surg 1998; 187:321-329. Keywords: ATIII, antithrombin III; NF-κ, nuclear factor-κB; PAI,plasminogen activator inhibitor).

In order to test the role of the endothelial-derived relaxing factors NO and PGI2, we investigated, in dogs, the influence of a combination of NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (an inhibitor of NO synthesis) and indomethacin (an inhibitor of PGI2 synthesis). In these dogs treated with indomethacin plus NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, the severity of the oxygen extraction defect was lower than that observed in the deoxycholate-treated dogs, suggesting that other mediators and/or mechanisms may be involved in microcirculatory control during hypoxia. One of these mediators or mechanisms could be related to hyperpolarization. Membrane potential is an important determinant of vascular smooth muscle tone through its influence on calcium influx via voltage-gated calcium channels. Hyperpolarization (as well as depolarization) has been shown to be a means of cell–cell communication in upstream vasodilatation and microcirculatory coordination. It is important to emphasize that intercell coupling exclusively involves ECs.

Interestingly, it was recently shown that sepsis, a situation that is characterized by impaired tissue perfusion and abnormal oxygen extraction, is associated with abnormal inter-EC coupling and reduction in the arteriolar conducted response.  An intra-organ defect in blood flow related to abnormal vascular reactivity, cell adhesion and coagulopathy may account for impaired organ oxygen regulation and function. If specific classes of microvessels must or must not be perfused to achieve efficient oxygen extraction during limitation in oxygen delivery, then impaired vascular reactivity and vessel injury might produce a pathological limitation in supply. In sepsis, the inflammatory response profoundly alters circulatory homeostasis, and this has been referred to as a ‘malignant intravascular inflammation’ that alters vasomotor tone and the distribution of blood flow among and within organs. These mechanisms might coexist with other types of sepsis associated cell dysfunction. For example, data suggest that endotoxin directly impairs oxygen uptake in ECs and indicate the importance of endothelium respiration in maintaining vascular homeostasis under conditions of sepsis.

Consistent with the hypothesis that alteration in endothelium plays a major in the pathophysiology of sepsis, it was observed that chronic ecNOS overexpression in the endothelium of mice resulted in resistance to LPS-induced hypotension, lung injury and death . This observation was confirmed by another group of investigators, who used transgenic mice overexpressing adrenomedullin  – a vasodilating peptide that acts at least in part via an NO-dependent pathway. They demonstrated resistance of these animals to LPS-induced shock, and lesser declines in blood pressure and less severe organ damage than occurred in the control animals. It might therefore be of importance to favour ecNOS expression and function during sepsis. The recent negative results obtained with therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking inducible NOS with the nonselective NOS inhibitor NG-monomethyl-L-arginine in human septic shock further confirm the overall importance of favoring vessel dilatation.

(Vallet B. Bench-to-bedside review: Endothelial cell dysfunction in severe sepsis: a role in organ dysfunction?  Critical Care 2003; 7(2):130-138 (DOI 10.1186/cc1864). (Print ISSN 1364-8535; Online ISSN 1466-609X).

Thrombosis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

An association between IBD and thrombosis has been recognized for more than 60 years. Not only are patients with IBD more likely to have thromboembolic complications, but it has also been suggested that thrombosis might be pathogenic in IBD.

Coagulation Described.  See Part I. (Cascade)

Endothelial injury exposes TF, which forms a complex with factor VII.  This complex activates factors X and, to a lesser extent, IX. TFPI prevents this activation progressing  further; for coagulation to progress, factor Xa must be produced via factors IX and VIII. Thrombin, generated by the initial production of factor Xa, activates factor VIII and, through factor XI, factor IX, resulting in further activation of factor X. This positive feedback loop allows coagulation to proceed. Fibrin polymers are stabilized by factor XIIIa. Activated proteins CS (APCS) together inhibit factors VIIIa and Va, whereas antithrombin (AT) inhibits factors VIIa, IXa, Xa, and XIa. Fibrinolysis balances this system through the action of plasmin on fibrin. Plasminogen activator inhibitor controls the plasminogen activator-induced conversion of plasminogen to plasmin.

Inflammation and Thrombotic Processes Linked

Although interest has recently moved away from the proposal that ischemia is a primary cause of IBD, it has become increasingly clear that inflammatory and thrombotic processes are linked.  A vascular component to the pathogenesis of CD was first proposed only a year after Crohn et al. described the condition.  Subsequently, in 1989, a series of changes comprising vascular injury, focal arteritis, fibrin deposition, arterial occlusion, and then microinfarction or neovascularization was proposed as a possible pathogenetic sequence in CD.  In this study, resin casts of the intestinal vasculature showed changes ranging from intravascular fibrin deposition to complete thrombotic occlusion. Furthermore, the early vascular changes appeared to precede mucosal changes, suggesting that they were more likely to cause rather than result from the pathologic features of CD. Subsequent studies showed that intravascular fibrin deposition occurred at the site of granulomatous destruction of mesenteric blood vessels, and positive immunostaining for platelet glycoprotein IIIa occurred in fibrinoid plugs of mucosal capillaries in CD. In addition, intracapillary thrombus has been identified in biopsies from inflamed rectal mucosa from patients with CD. When combined with evidence of ongoing intravascular coagulation in both active and quiescent CD, the above data point toward a thrombotic element contributing to the pathogenesis of CD.

Not only are many different prothrombotic changes described in association with IBD, but they can also have multiple causes. Hyperhomocysteinemia, for example, is known to predispose to thrombosis, and patients with IBD are more likely to have hyperhomocysteinemia than control subjects. Hyperhomocysteinemia in IBD might be due to multiple possible causes, such as deficiencies of vitamin B12 as a result of terminal ileal disease or resection; B6, which is commonly reduced in IBD.  A vegan diet can’t be discarded either because of seriously deficient methyl donors (S-adenosyl methionine).

The realization that platelets are not only prothrombotic but also proinflammatory has stimulated interest in their role in both the pathogenesis and complications of IBD. The association between thrombocytosis and active IBD was first described more than 30 years ago. More recent observations link decreased or normal platelet survival to IBD-related thrombocytosis, possibly due to increased thrombopoiesis. This in turn could be driven by an interleukin-6 –induced increase in thrombopoietin synthesis in the liver. Spontaneous in vitro platelet aggregation occurs in platelets isolated from 30% of patients with IBD but not in platelets from control subjects. Moreover, collagen, arachidonic acid, ristocetin, and ADP-induced platelet activation are more marked in platelets from patients with active IBD than in those from healthy volunteers.

The roles of activated platelets and PLAs in mucosal inflammation. Activated platelets can interact with other cells involved in the inflammatory response either through direct contact or through the release of soluble mediators. Activated platelets interact directly with activated vascular endothelium, causing the latter to express adhesion molecules and release inflammatory and chemotactic cytokines.

Platelet activation might be pathogenic in IBD in several ways. Platelet activation might increase platelet aggregation, hence increasing the likelihood of thrombus formation at sites of vascular injury, for example, within the mesenteric circulation. P-selectin is the major ligand for leukocyte-endothelial interaction and is responsible for the rolling of platelets, leukocytes, and PLAs on vascular endothelium. Moreover, platelets adherent to injured vascular endothelium support leukocyte adhesion via P-selectin, an effect that could contribute to leukocyte emigration from the vasculature into the lamina propria in patients with IBD. In addition, P-selectin is the major platelet ligand for platelet-leukocyte interaction, which in turn causes both leukocyte activation and further platelet activation.

Platelet-Leukocyte Aggregation

Recently, studies showing that platelets and leukocytes that circulate together in aggregates (PLA) are more activated than those that circulate alone have generated interest in the role of PLA in various inflammatory and thrombotic conditions. PLA numbers are increased in patients with ischemic heart disease, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, myeloproliferative disorders, and sepsis and are increased by smoking.

We have recently shown that patients with IBD have more PLAs than both healthy and inflammatory control subjects (patients with inflammatory arthritides).  As with platelet activation, there was no correlation with disease activity, suggesting that increased PLA formation might be an underlying abnormality. PLAs could contribute to the pathogenesis of IBD in a number of ways. As previously mentioned, TF is key to the initiation of thrombus formation. TF has recently been demonstrated on the surface of activated platelets and in platelet-derived microvesicles. Interaction between neutrophils and activated platelets or microvesicles vastly increases the activity of “intravascular” TF.


It is becoming increasingly apparent that thrombosis and inflammation are intrinsically linked. Hence the involvement of thrombotic processes in the pathogenesis of IBD, although perhaps not as the primary event, seems likely. Indeed, with the recently mounting evidence of the role of activated platelets and of their interaction with leukocytes in the pathogenesis of IBD, it seems even more probable that thrombosis plays some role in the pathogenic process.

(Irving PM, Pasi KJ, and Rampton DS. Thrombosis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2005;3:617–628. PII: 10.1053/S1542-3565(05)00154-0.)

Bleeding in Patients with Renal Insufficiency

Approximately 20–40% of critically ill patients will have renal insufficiency at the time of admission or will develop it during their ICU stay, depending on the definition of renal insufficiency and the case mix of the ICU. Such patients are also predisposed to bleeding because of uremic platelet dysfunction, typically multiple comorbidities, coagulopathies and frequent concomitant treatment with antiplatelet or anticoagulant agents.

The impairment in hemostasis in uremic patients is multifactorial and includes physiological defects in platelet hemostasis, an imbalance of mediators of normal endothelial function and frequent comorbidities such as vascular disease, anemia and the frequent need for medical interventions required to treat such comorbidities. Physiologic alterations in uremia include:

  • decreased platelet glycoprotein IIb–IIIa binding to both von Willebrand factor (vWf) and fibrinogen, causing an impairment in platelet aggregation;
  • increased prostacyclin and nitric oxide production, both potent inhibitors of platelet activation and vasoconstriction; and
  • decreased levels of platelet adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and serotonin, causing an impairment in platelet secretion.

In addition to other factors, small peptides containing the RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) sequence of amino acids have been shown to be inhibitors of platelet aggregation that act by competing with vWf and fibrinogen for binding to the glycoprotein IIb–IIIa receptor.


ICU patients have dynamic risks of thrombosis and bleeding. Invasive procedures may require temporary interruption of anticoagulants. Consequently, approaches to thromboprophylaxis require daily reevaluation.

(Cook DJ, Douketis J, Arnold D, and Crowther MA. Bleeding and venous thromboembolism in the critically ill with emphasis on patients with renal insufficiency. Curr Opin Pulm Med 2009;15:455–462.)


I have covered a large amount of material on one of the most complex systems in medicine, and still not comprehensive, with a sufficient dash of repetition.  The task is to have some grasp of the cell-mediated imbalances inherent if coagulation and bleeding disorders.  The key points are:

  • inflammation and oxidative stress invariably lurk in the background
  • the Y-shaped model with an extrinsic, intrinsic, and common pathway has no basis in understanding
  • the current model is based on a cell-mediated concept of endothelial damage and platelet-endothelial interaction
  • the model has 3 components: Initiation, Amplification, Propagation
  • NO and prostacyclin have key roles in the process
  • The plasma proteins involved are in the serine-protease class of enzymes
  • The conversion of Protein C to APC has a central role as anti-coagulant

Part II goes into organ aystem abnormalities that are all related to impairment of the Nitric Oxide balance and dual platelet-endothelial roles.

Part III will explore therapeutic targets and opportunities.

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