Posts Tagged ‘Protease-activated receptor’

The Effects of Bovine Thrombin on HUVEC and AoSMC

Curators: Demet Sağ, 1,* and Jeffrey Harold Lawson 1,2

From the Department of Surgery1 and PathologyDuke University Medical Center Durham, NC-USA

Running Foot:

Thrombin induces vascular cell proliferation


crystal structure of thrombin.

crystal structure of thrombin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Review Profs and correspondence should be addressed to:

Dr. Jeffrey Lawson

Duke University Medical Center

Room 481 MSRB/ Boxes 2622

Research Drive

Durham, NC 27710

Phone (919) 681-6432

Fax      (919) 681-1094


*Current Address:  TransGenomics Consulting, Principal, 3830 Valley Center Drive, Suite 705-223 San Diego, CA 92130



Thrombin is a serine protease with multiple cellular functions that acts through protease activated receptor kinases (PARs) and responds to trauma at the endothelial cells of vein resulting in coagulation.  In this study, we had analyzed the activity of thrombin on the vein by using human umbilical vein endothelial (HUVEC) and human aorta smooth muscle (AoSMC) cells.  Ectopic thrombin increases the expression of PARs, cAMP concentration, and Gi signaling as a result the proliferation events in the smooth muscle cells achieved by the elevation of activated ERK leading to gene activation through c-AMP binding elements responsive transcription factors such as CREB, NFkB50, c-fos, ATF-2.  We had observed activation of p38 as well as JNK but they were related to stress and inflammation. In the nucleus, ATF-2 activity is the start point of IL-2 proliferation through T cell activation creating APC and B-cell memory leading to autoimmune reaction as a result of ectopic thrombin.  These changes in the gene activation increased connective tissue growth factor as well as cysteine rich protein expression at the mRNA level, which proven to involve in vascularization and angiogenesis in several studies.  Consequently, when ectopic thrombin used during the graft transplant surgeries, it causes occlusion of the veins so that transplant needs to be replaced within six months due to thrombin’s proliferative function as mitogen in the smooth muscle cells.




The Effect of Thrombin(s) on Smooth Muscle and Endothelial Cells

Thrombin is a multifunctional serine protease that plays a major role in the highly regulated series of biochemical reactions leading to the formation of fibrin (1, 2).  Thrombin has been shown to affect a vast number of cell types, including platelets, endothelial cells, smooth muscle cells, cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts, mast cells, neurons, keratinocytes, monocytes, macrophages and a variety of lymphocytes, including B-cells and T-cells, and stimulate smooth muscle and endothelial cell proliferation (3-13).

Induction of thrombin results in cells response as immune response and proliferation by affecting transcriptional control of gene expression through series of signaling mechanisms (14).  First, protease activated receptor kinases (PAR), which are seven membrane spanning receptors called G protein coupled receptors (GPCR) are initiate the line of mechanism by thrombin resulting in variety of cellular responses. These receptorsare activated by a unique mechanism in which the protease createsa new extracellular amino-terminus functioning as a tetheredligand, results in intermolecular activation.  PARs are ‘single-use’ receptors: activation is irreversible and the cleaved receptors are degraded in lysosomes, as they play important roles in ’emergency situations’, such as trauma and inflammation.  Protease activated receptor 1 (PAR1) is the prototype of this family and is activated when thrombin cleaves its amino-terminal extracellular domain.  PAR1, PAR3, and PAR4 are activated by thrombin. Whereas PAR2 is activated by trypsin, factor VIIa, tissue factor, factor Xa, thrombin cleaved PAR1.

Second, the activated PAR by the thrombin stimulates downstream signaling events by G protein dependent or independent pathways.  Although each of the PAR respond to thrombin undoubtedly mediates different thrombin responses, most of what is known about thrombin signaling downstream of the receptors themselves has derived from studies of PAR1.  PAR couples with at least three G protein families Gq, Gi, and G12/13.  With G protein activation: Gi/q leads InsP3 induced Ca release and/or Rac induced membrane ruffling.  Gi dependent signaling activates Ras, p42/44, Src/Fak, p42.  Rho related proteins and phospholipase C results in mitogenesis and actin cytoskeletal rearrangements. G protein independent activation happens either through tyrosine kinase trans-activation results in mitogenesis and stress-fibre formation, neurite retraction by Rho path, or activation of choline for Rap association with newly systhesized actin.  These events are tightly regulated to support diverse cellular responses of thrombin. (15-17).

Treatment of veins with topical bovine thrombin showed early occlusion of the veins result in proliferation of smooth muscle cells (18-24) due to change of gene expression transcription.  The change of Ca++ and cAMP concentrations influence cAMP response element binding protein (25-30) carrying transcription factors such as CREB, ATF-2, c-jun, c-fos, c-Rel.  Activation of angiogenesis and vascularization affects cysteine rich gene family (CCN) genes such as connective tissue factor (CTGF) and cysteine rich gene (Cyr61) according to performed studies and microarray analysis by (31-36).   Currently the most common topical products approved by FDA are bovine originated.   Although bovine thrombin is very similar to human (37, 38), it has a species specific activity, shown to cause autoimmune-response (39-42), which results in repeated surgeries (40, 43, 44), and renal failures that cost to health of individuals as well as to the economy.

In this report we had evaluated the effect of topically applied bovine thrombin to human umbilical endothelial cells (HUVECs) and human aorta smooth muscle cells (AoSMCs).  We had showed that use of bovine thrombin cause adverse affects on the cellular physiology of human vein towards proliferation of smooth muscle tissue.   Collectively, thrombin usage should be assessed before and after surgery because it is a very potent substance.


Thrombins:  Bovine thrombin and human thrombin ((Haematologic Technologies Inc, VT); topical bovine thrombin (JMI, King’s Pharmaceutical, KS); topical human thrombin (Baxter, NC human thrombin sealant).

Cell Culture:  The pooled cells were received from Clonetics. Human endothelial cells  (HUVEC) were grown in EGM-2MV bullet kit (refinements to basal medium CCMD130 and the growth factors, 5% FBS, 0.04% hydrocortisone, 2.5% hFGF, 0.1% of each VEGF, IGF-1, Ascorbic acid, hEGF, GA-1000) and human aorta smooth muscle cells (AoSMC) were grown in SmGM-2 medium (5% FBS, 0.1% Insulin, 1.25% hFGF, 0.1% GA-1000, and 0.1% hEGF).     The cells were grown to confluence (2-3 days for HUVEC and 4-5 days for HOSMC) before splitted, and only used from passage 3 to 5.  Before stimulating the confluent cells, they had been starved with starvation media containing 0.1% bovine serum albumin (BSA) EGM-2 or SmBM basal media.

RNA isolation and RT-PCR:  The total RNA was isolated by RNeasy mini kit (Qiagen, Cat#74104) fibrous animal tissue protocol.  The two-step protocol had been applied to amplify cDNA by Prostar Ultra HF RT PCR kit (Stratagene Cat# 600166).  At first step, cDNA from the total RNA had been synthesized. After denaturing the RNA at 65 oC for 5 min, the Pfu Turbo added at room temperature to the reaction with random primers, then incubated at 42oC for 15min for cDNA amplification.   At the second step, hot start PCR reaction had been designed by use of gene specific primers for PAR1, PAR2, PAR3, and PAR4 to amplify DNA with robotic arm PCR. The reaction conditions were one cycle at 95oC for 1 min, 40 cycles for denatured at 95oC for 1 min, annealed at 50 oC 1min, amplified at 68 oC for 3min, finally one cycle of extension at 68 oC for 10 min.  The cDNA products were then usedas PCR templates for the amplification of a 614 bp PAR-1 fragment(PAR-1 sense: 5′-CTGACGCTCTTCATCCCCTCCGTG, PAR-1 antisense:5′-GACAGGAACAAAGCCCGCGACTTC), a 599 bp PAR-2 fragment (PAR-2sense: 5′-GGTCTTTCTTCCGGTCGTCTACAT, PAR-2 antisense: 5′-GCAGTTATGCAGTCAGGC),a 601 bp PAR-3 fragment (PAR-3 sense: 5′-GAGTCCCTGCCCACACAGTC,PAR-3 antisense: 5′-TCGCCAAATACCCAGTTGTT), a 492 bp PAR-4 fragment(PAR-4 sense: 5′-GAGCCGAAGTCCTCAGACAA, PAR-4 antisense: 5′-AGGCCACCAAACAGAGTCCA). The PCR consistedof 25 to 40 cycles between 95°C (15 seconds) and 55°C(45 seconds). Controls included reactions without template,without reverse transcriptase, and water alone. Primers forglyceraldehydes phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH; sense: 5′-GACCCCTTCATTGACCTCAAC,antisense: 5′-CTTCTCCATGGTGGTGAAGA) were used as controls. Reactionproducts were resolved on a 1.2% agarose gel and visualizedusing ethidium bromide.

The primers CTGF-(forward) 5′- GGAGCGAGACACCAACC -3′ and CTGF-(reverse) CCAGTCATAATCAAAGAAGCAGC ; Cyr61- (forward)  GGAAGCCTTGCT CATTCTTGA  and Cyr61- (reverse) TCC AAT CGT GGC TGC ATT AGT were used for RT-PCR.  The conditions were hot start at 95C for 1 min, fourty cycles of denaturing for 45 sec at 95C, annealing for 45 sec at 55C and amplifying for 2min at 68C, followed by 10 minutes at 68C extension.


Cell Proliferation Assay with WST-1—Cell proliferation assays were performed using the cell proliferation reagent 3-(4,5 dimethylthiazaol-2-y1)-2,5-dimethyltetrazolium bromide (WST-1, Roche Cat# 1-644-807) via indirect mechanism.   This non-radioactive colorimetric assay is based on the cleavage of the tetrazolium salt WST-1 by mitocondrial dehydrogenases in viable cells forming colored reaction product.   HUVECs were grown in 96 well plates (starting from 250, 500, and 1000 cells/well) for 1 day and then incubated the medium without FBS and growth factors for 24 h.  The cells were then treated with WST-1 and four types of thrombins, 100 units of each BIIa, HIIa, TBIIa, and THIIa.  The reaction was stopped by H2SO4 and absorbance (450 nm) of the formazan product was measured as an index of cell proliferation. The standard error of mean had been calculated.

BrDu incorporation:  This method being chosen to determine the cellular proliferation with a direct non-radioactive measurement of DNA synthesis based on the incorporation of the pyridine analogous 5 bromo-2’-deoxyuridine (BrDu) instead of thymidine into the DNA of proliferating cells. The antibody conjugate reacts with BrDu and with BrDu incorporated into DNA.  The antibody does not cross-react with endogenous cellular components such as thymidine, uridine, or DNA.  The cells were seeded, next day starved for 24h, and were stimulated at time intervals 3h, 24h, and 72h with 100 units of each BIIa, HIIa, TBIIa, and THIIa, and BrDu (Roche).  Cells were fixed for 15 min with fixation-denature solution and incubated with primary antibody (anti-BrDu) prior to incubation with the secondary antibody.  The cells were then fixed in 3.7% formaldehyde for 10 min at room temperature, rinsed in PBS and the chromatin was rendered accessible by a 10 min treatment with HCI (2 M), then measured the activity at A450nm.

Nuclear Extract Preparation:  The nuclear extracts were prepared by the protocol suggested in the ELISA inflammation kit (BD).   For each treatment one 100mm plate were used per cell line.

EMSA:  The 96 well-plates were blocked at room temperature before incubating with the 50 ul of prepared nuclear extracts from each treated cell line were placed for one hour at 25C.  The washed plates were incubated with primary antibodies of each transcription factors for another hour at 25C and repeat the wash step with transfactor/blocking buffer prior to secondary antibody addition for 30 min at 25C, wash again with transfactor buffer, which was followed by development of the blue color for ten minutes and the reaction was stopped with 1M sulfuric acid, and the absorbance readings were taking at 450nm by multiple well plate reader.

Immunoblotting:  The activated level of pERK, Gi, Gq, and PAR1 had been immunoblotted to observe the mitogenic effect of bovine thrombin on both HUVEC and AoSMCs.   The cells were lysed in sample buffer (0.25M Tris-HCl, pH 6.8, 10% glycerol, 5%SDS, 5% b-mercaptoethanol, 0.02%bromophenol blue).  The samples were run on the 16% SDS-PAGE for 1 hour at 30mA per gel. Following the completion of transfer onto 0.45micro molar nitrocellulose membrane for 1 hour at 250mA, the membranes were blocked in 5% skim milk phosphate buffered saline at 4C for 4 hours. The membranes were washed three times for 10 minutes each in 0.1% Tween-20 in PBS after both primary and secondary antibody incubations.  The pERK (42/44 kD), Gi (40kDa), Gq (40kDa) and PAR1 (55kDa) visualized with the polyclonal antibody raised against each in rabbit (1:5000 dilution from g/ml, Cell Signaling) and chemiluminescent detection of anti-rabbit IgG 1/200 conjugated with horseradish peroxidase (ECL, Amersham Corp).


The expression of PARs differs for the types  of  vascular cells. 

Figure 1 shows PAR 1 and PAR3 expression on HUVECs and AoSMCs. The expression was evaluated consisted with prior work PAR1 and PAR3 express on AoSMC but PAR2 and PAR4 are not.  The level of PAR1 expression is significantly greater on AoSMC (3:1) then HUVECs.  We determine the PAR2 in vitro in HUVECs or AoSMCs, PAR2, does not respond to thrombin however according to reports, has function in inflammation. PAR4 is not detected in either cell types. However, PAR3 responding to thrombin at low concentration showed minute amount in AoSMC compare to weak presence in HUVECs. The origin of the thrombin may influence the difference in expression of PAR4 in HUVECs, since BIIa caused higher PAR4 expression than HIIA, but THIIa had almost none (not shown).

The expression of the PARs, G proteins, and pERK use different signaling dynamics. The application of thrombin triggers the extracellular signaling mechanism through the PARs on the membrane; next, the signal travels through cytoplasm by Gi and Gq to MAPKs. Gi was activated   more on AoSMC than HUVECs (Figure 2 and Figure 3).

In Figure 2 demonstrates the expression of Gi on HUVEC starts at 20minutes and continues to be expressed until 5.5h time interval, but Gq/11 expression is almost same between non-stimulated and stimulated samples from 20min to 5.5 h period.  The difference of expression between the two kinds of G proteins is subtle, Gi is at least five fold more than Gi expression on AoSMC. 

In Figure 3, there is a difference between Gi and Gq/11 expression on HUVEC. The linear  increase from 0 to 30 minutes was detected, at 1hour the expression decreased by 50%, then the expression became un-detectable.   Both Gi and Gq/11 showed the same pattern of expression but only Gi had again showed five times stronger signal than Gq/11.  This brings the possibility that Gi had been activated due to thrombin and this signal pass onto AoSMC and remain there long period of time.

Next, the proliferation through MAPK signaling had been tested by ERK activation.  Figure 4 represents this activation data that both HUVECs and AoSMCs express activated ERK, but the activity dynamics is different as expected from G protein signaling pattern.   Both AoSMC and HUVECs starts to express the activated ERK around 20min time and reach to the plato at 3.5hr.  AoSMCs get phosphorylated at least 5 times more than HUVECs.   This might be related to dynamics of each PARs as it had been suggested previously (by Coughlin group PAR1 vs. PAR4).

Activation of DNA synthesis in AoSMCs.  As it had been shown the serine proteases, thrombin and trypsin are among many factors that malignant cells secrete into the extracellular space to mediate metastatic processes such as cellular invasion, extracellular matrix degradation, angiogenesis, and tissue remodeling. We want to examine whether the types of thrombin had any specificity on proliferation on either cell types. Moreover, if there was a correlation between the number of cells and origin of thrombin, it can be use as reference to predict the response from the patient that may be valuable in patient’s recovery. As a result, we had investigated the proliferation of HUVECs and AoSMCs by WST-1 and BrDu.

DNA synthesis experiments for HUVECs with WST-1and BrDu showed no mitogenic response to thrombins we used with WST-1 or BrDu.   All together, in our data showed that there is no significant proliferation in HUVECs due to thrombins we used (data not shown).

DNA synthesis for AoSMCs With WST-1: After the starvation of the cells hours by depleting the cells were treated with WST-1 and readings were collected at time intervals of 0, 3.5, 25, and 45hours.  The measured WST-1 reaction increased 20% between each time points from 0 to 25 h and stop at 45 h except THIIa continue 20% increase (not shown). 

DNA synthesis at AoSMCs With BrDu: We had observed 2.5 fold increase of DNA synthesis of AoSMC after 72 hr in response to thrombin treatments, that resulted in cell proliferation according to Figure 5.  The plates were seeded with 500 cells and the proliferation was measured at time intervals 3h, 24h, and 72h.  At 3h time interval no difference between non-stimulated and  stimulated by topical bovine thrombin AoSMC.  At 24h the cells proliferate 20% by favor of treated cells, finally at 72h the ectopical bovine thrombin cause 253% more cell proliferationthan baseline. On the same token, TBIIa had 100% more mitogenic than THIIa but there was almost no difference between the HIIa and BIIa on proliferation (not shown).  This predicts that as well as the origin of the product the purity of the preparation is important.

Effects of thrombin and TRAPS (thrombin receptor activated peptides) on the HUVECs

Figure 6A (Figure 6) presents how TRAP stimulated cells change their transcription factor expression.  PAR1 effects CREB and c-Rel, but PAR3 affects ATF-2 and c-Rel. The proliferation signals eventually affect the gene expression and activation of downstream genes.  HUVECs were treated all four known TRAPs directly, before treating them with types of ectopical thrombins.  As a result, it is important to find how direct application of specific peptides for each PAR receptor will change the gene expression in the nucleus of ECs as well as their phenotype to activate SMCs.  PAR1 caused 175% increase on 200% on c-rel, 175% CREB, 90% on ATF2, 80% on c-fos, 70% on NfkB 50 and 60% on NFkB65. On the other hand, PAR3 affected the ATF2 by 200%.  PAR3 increased the c-Rel by 160%, and NfkB50, NFkB65, and c-fos by 60%.  These factors have CREs (cAMP response elements) in their transcriptional sequence and they bind to p300/CREB either creating homodimers or heterodimers to trigger transcriptional control mechanism of a cell, e.g. T cell activation by IL2 proliferation activated by ATF dimers or choosing between controlled versus un-controlled cellular proliferation. These decisions determine what downstream genes are going to be on and when.  This data confirms the increased of activated ERK, p38 and JNK protein expression in vivo study (Sag et al., 2013)

The effects of thrombins on the transcription factors.  Figure 7 demonstrates the comparison between HUVECs and AoSMC after topical bovine thrombin (JMI) stimulation to detect a difference on transcription activation. First, Figure 7A shows in HUVECs  topical bovine thrombin causes elevation of ATF2 activation by  50% and c-Rel by 30%.  Figure 7B represents in AoSMC thrombin affects CREB specifically since no change on HUVECs.  As a result, the transcription factors are activated differently, therefore, CREB 40%, ATF2 80%, and c-Rel 10% elevated by TBII treatment compare to baseline.

Gene Interaction changes after the thrombin treatment both in vivo and in vitro:  Figure 8 shows RT-PCR for two of the cysteine rich family proteins in vitro (this study) as well as in vivo (Sag et al manuscript 2006).  These genes have a  predicted function in angiogenesis, connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) and cystein rich protein 61 (Cyr61).  In our in vivo study, CTGF was only expressed if the veins are treated with thrombin and Cys61 expression is also elevated but both controls and bovine thrombin treated veins showed expression.  The total RNA from the cells was purified and testes against controls, the negative controls by water or by no reverse transcriptase and positive controls by internal gene, expression of beta actin.  The expression of beta actin is  at least two-three times abundant in HUVECs than that of AoSMC.  The CTGF is higher in AoSMCs  than HUVEC.  Simply the fact that the concentration of RNA is lower along with low internal expression positive control gene, but the CTGF expression was even 1 fold higher than HUVEC.  In perfect picture this theoretically adds up to 4 times difference between the cell types in favor of AoSMCs.  However, the Cyr61 expression adds up to the equal level of cDNA expression.

Consequently, the overall use of topical thrombins changed the fate of the cells plus when they were in their very fragile state under the surgical trauma and inflammation caused by the operation.  As a result, the cells may not be able make cohesive decision to avoid these extra signals, depending on the age and types of operations but eventually they lead to complications.


In this study, we had shown the molecular pathway(s) affected by using ectopic thrombin during/after surgery on pig animal model that causing differentiation in the gene interactions for proliferation. In our study the mechanism for ectopic thrombins to investigate whether there was a difference in cell stimulation and gene interactions. Starting from the cell surface to the nucleus we had tested the mechanisms for thrombin affect on cells.  We had found that there were differences between endothelial cells and smooth muscle cell responses depending on the type of thrombin origin.  For example, PAR1 expressed heavily on HUVECs, but PAR1 and PAR3 on the AoSMCs.   Activated PARs couples to signaling cascades affect cell shape, secretion, integrin activation, metabolic responses, transcriptional responses and cell motility. Moreover, according to the literature these diverse functions differ depending on the cell type and time that adds another dimension.

Presence of PARs on different cell types have been studied by many groups for different reasons development, coagulation, inflammation and immune response. For example, PAR1 is the predominant thrombin receptor expressed in HUVECs and cleavage of PAR1 is required for EC responses to thrombin.  As a result, PAR2 may activate PAR1 for action in addition to transactivation between PAR3 and PAR4 observed. PAR4 is not expressed on HUVEC; and transactivation of PAR2 by cleaved PAR1 can contribute to endothelial cell responses to thrombin, particularly when signaling through PAR1 is blocked.

Next, the measurement of G protein expression shows that Gi and Gq have function at both cell types in terms of ectopical response to cAMP; therefore, Gi was heavily expressed. However Gi was stated to be function in development and growth therefore activates MAPKs most.  As it was expected from previous studies and our hands in vivo, observation of elevated ERK phosphorylation in vitro at time intervals relay us to determine simply what molecular genetics and development players cause the thickening in the vessel.  Analysis between the cell types resulted in proliferation of AoSMC, which was enough to occlude a vessel.

The ability of the immune system to distinguish between benignand harmful antigens is central to maintaining the overall healthof an organism. Fields and Shoenecker (2003) from our lab showed that proteases, namely those that can activate the PAR-2 transmembraneprotein, can up-regulate costimulatory molecules on DC and initiatean immune response (45).  Once activated, PAR-2 initiates a numberof intracellular events, including G and Gß signaling. Here, we show the PAR protein expression for PAR1 and PAR3 but not for PAR2.  Yet we had seen mRNA expression of PAR2 in vitro. We had also detected Gi and Gq but no expression of Ga or Gbg.   However, we did detect the difference of transcription factor activation by EMSA that correlates well with danger signal creation by thrombin.  In this report with the highlights of our data it seems that it is possibly an indirect response.

The bovine thrombin also affected the gene activation, measured by EMSA ELISA by direct treatment of the cells with thrombin response activation peptides (TRAPs) for PAR1, PAR2, PAR3, PAR4 on HUVECs since the endothelial cells directly exposed to ectopical thrombin treatment on vascular system and smooth muscle cells are inside of the vein.  Therefore, plausibly ECs transfer the signals received from their surface to the smooth muscle cells.  Second, we applied ectopical thrombins on AoSMCs as well as HUVECs by the same technique for the analysis of change same transcription factors previously with HUVEC for response to TRAPs.  These factors were ATF-2, CREB, c-rel, NFkB p50, NFkB p65, and c-fos.   In HUVECs, NFkB 50 increased the most by PAR2 oligo and PAR4 oligo, CREB as inflammatory response by PAR1 oligo, and ATF2 for PAR3 and PAR4 oligos, and c-fos with PAR4 oligo  The cellular response for thrombin in AoSMC differs from HUVEC since the at AoSMC not only proliferation by CREB  but also T cell activation by ATF-2 observed.

CREB (CRE-binding protein, Cyclic AMP Responsive DNA Binding Protein) protein has been shown to function as calcium regulated transcription factor as well as a substrate for depolarization-activated calcium calmodulin-dependent protein kinases II and I.   Some growth control genes, such as FOS have CRE, in their transcriptional regulatory region and their expression is induced by increase in the intracellular cAMP levels. This data goes very well with our finding of highly elevated Gi expression compare to Gq/11.  The CREB, or ATF (activating transcription factor, CRBP1, cAMP response element-binding protein 2, formerly; (CREB2) are also interacting with p300/CBP.  Transcriptional activation of CREB is controlled through phosphorylation at Ser133 by p90Rsk and the p44/42 MAP kinase (pERK, phosphorylated ERK). The transcriptional activity of the proto-oncogene c-Fos has been implicated in cell growth, differentiation, and development. Like CREB, c-Fos is regulated by p90Rsk.   NFKB has been detected in numerous cell types that express cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, cell adhesion molecules, and some acute phase proteins in health and in various disease states. In sum, our data is coherent from cellular membrane to nucleus as well as from nucleus to cellular membrane.

The origin of the thrombin is proven to be important, and required to be used very defined and clear concentrations.  It is not an old dog trick since ectopical thrombins have been used to control bleeding very widely without much required regulations not only in the surgeries but also in many other common applications.

In our experiments we observe MAPKs activities showed that pERK is active in AoSMCs more than HUVECs. The underlying mechanism how MAPKs connects to the cell cycle agree with our data that the mitogen-dependent induction of cyclin D1 expression, one of the earliest cell cycle-related events to occur during the G0/G1 to S-phase transition, is a potential target of MAPK regulation.  Activation of this signaling pathway by thrombin cause similar affects as expression of a constitutively active MKK1 mutant (46) does which results in dramatically increased cyclin D1 promoter activity and cyclin D1 protein expression.  In marked contrast, the p38 (MAPK) cascade showed an opposite effect on the regulation of cyclin D1 expression, which means that using unconcerned use of ectopic bovine thrombin will lead to more catastrophic affects then it was thought.  Since the p38 also is responsible for immune response mechanism, the system will be alarmed by the danger signal created by bovine thrombin.  The minute amount of well balanced mechanism will start against itself as it was observed previously (39-43, 47).

Finally, according to the lead from the literature tested the cysteine rich gene expression of CTGF and Cyr61 showing elevation of CTGF in AoSMCs also  make our argument stronger that the use of bovine thrombin does affect the cells beyond the proliferation but as system.

All together, both in vivo and in vitro studies confirms that choosing the right kind of ectopic product for the proper “hemostasis” to be resumed at an unexpected situation in the operation room is critical, therefore, this decision should require careful considiration to avoid long term health problems.


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Figure Legends:

Figure 1: PAR signaling in HUVEC AND AoSMC by western blotting. Figure 1

Figure 2: The Effects of TBIIa on G Protein signaling of AoSMCs. (a) Gi (B) Gq/11 Figure 2

Figure 3:  The Effects of TBIIa on G Protein signaling of HUVECs (a) Gi (B) Gq/11  Figure 3

Figure 4:  The effects of TBIIa on AoSMC and HUVEC ERK activation. Figure 4

Figure 5:  AoSMC proliferation after BrDu treatment. Figure 5

Figure 6:  Affects of TRAPs, thrombin responsive activation peptides, for the transcription factors on HUVEC Figure 6

Figure 7:  The ectopical thrombin effects the transcription factors differently on HUVECs and AoSMCs.  Figure 7

Figure 8:  Gene interactions differ after ectopic IIa. (A) in the AoSMC,  (B) In the HUVEC. Figure 8



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aprotinin-sequence.Par.0001.Image.260 (Photo credit: redondoself)

English: Protein folding: amino-acid sequence ...

Protein folding: amino-acid sequence of bovine BPTI (basic pancreatic trypsin inhibitor) in one-letter code, with its folded 3D structure represented by a stick model of the mainchain and sidechains (in gray), and the backbone and secondary structure by a ribbon colored blue to red from N- to C-terminus. 3D structure from PDB file 1BPI, visualized in Mage and rendered in Raster3D. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)













The Effects of Aprotinin on Endothelial Cell Coagulant Biology

Demet Sag, PhD*†, Kamran Baig, MBBS, MRCS; James Jaggers, MD, Jeffrey H. Lawson, MD, PhD

Departments of Surgery and Pathology (J.H.L.) Duke University Medical Center Durham, NC  27710

Correspondence and Reprints:

                             Jeffrey H. Lawson, M.D., Ph.D.

                              Departments of Surgery & Pathology

                              DUMC Box 2622

                              Durham, NC  27710

                              (919) 681-6432 – voice

                              (919) 681-1094 – fax


*Current Address: Demet SAG, PhD

                          3830 Valley Centre Drive Suite 705-223, San Diego, CA 92130


Word Count: 4101 Journal Subject Heads:  CV surgery, endothelial cell activationAprotinin, Protease activated receptors,

Potential Conflict of Interest:         None


Introduction:  Cardiopulmonary bypass is associated with a systemic inflammatory response syndrome, which is responsible for excessive bleeding and multisystem dysfunction. Endothelial cell activation is a key pathophysiological process that underlies this response. Aprotinin, a serine protease inhibitor has been shown to be anti-inflammatory and also have significant hemostatic effects in patients undergoing CPB. We sought to investigate the effects of aprotinin at the endothelial cell level in terms of cytokine release (IL-6), tPA release, tissue factor expression, PAR1 + PAR2 expression and calcium mobilization. Methods:  Cultured Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECS) were stimulated with TNFa for 24 hours and treated with and without aprotinin (200KIU/ml + 1600KIU/ml). IL-6 and tPA production was measured using ELISA. Cellular expression of Tissue Factor, PAR1 and PAR2 was measured using flow cytometry. Intracellular calcium mobilization following stimulation with PAR specific peptides and agonists (trypsin, thrombin, Human Factor VIIa, factor Xa) was measured using fluorometry with Fluo-3AM. Results: Aprotinin at the high dose (1600kIU/mL), 183.95 ± 13.06mg/mL but not low dose (200kIU/mL) significantly reduced IL-6 production from TNFa stimulated HUVECS (p=0.043). Aprotinin treatment of TNFa activated endothelial cells significantly reduce the amount of tPA released in a dose dependent manner (A200 p=0.0018, A1600 p=0.033). Aprotinin resulted in a significant downregulation of TF expression to baseline levels. At 24 hours, we found that aprotinin treatment of TNFa stimulated cells resulted in a significant downregulation of PAR-1 expression. Aprotinin significantly inhibited the effects of the protease thrombin upon PAR1 mediated calcium release. The effects of PAR2 stimulatory proteases such as human factor Xa, human factor VIIa and trypsin on calcium release was also inhibited by aprotinin. Conclusion:  We have shown that aprotinin has direct anti-inflammatory effects on endothelial cell activation and these effects may be mediated through inhibition of proteolytic activation of PAR1 and PAR2. Abstract word count: 297

INTRODUCTION   Each year it is estimated that 350,000 patients in the United States, and 650,000 worldwide undergo cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB). Despite advances in surgical techniques and perioperative management the morbidity and mortality of cardiac surgery related to the systemic inflammatory response syndrome(SIRS), especially in neonates is devastatingly significant. Cardiopulmonary bypass exerts an extreme challenge upon the haemostatic system as part of the systemic inflammatory syndrome predisposing to excessive bleeding as well as other multisystem dysfunction (1). Over the past decade major strides have been made in the understanding of the pathophysiology of the inflammatory response following CPB and the role of the vascular endothelium has emerged as critical in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis (2).

CPB results in endothelial cell activation and initiation of coagulation via the Tissue Factor dependent pathway and consumption of important clotting factors. The major stimulus for thrombin generation during CPB has been shown to be through the tissue factor dependent pathway. As well as its effects on the fibrin and platelets thrombin has been found to play a role in a host of inflammatory responses in the vascular endothelium. The recent discovery of the Protease-Activated Receptors (PAR), one of which through which thrombin acts (PAR-1) has stimulated interest that they may provide a vital link between inflammation and coagulation (3).

Aprotinin is a nonspecific serine protease inhibitor that has been used for its ability to reduce blood loss and preserve platelet function during cardiac surgery procedures requiring cardiopulmonary bypass and thus the need for subsequent blood and blood product transfusions. However there have been concerns that aprotinin may be pro-thrombotic, especially in the context of coronary artery bypass grafting, which has limited its clinical use. These reservations are underlined by the fact that the mechanism of action of aprotinin has not been fully understood. Recently aprotinin has been shown to exert anti-thrombotic effects mediated by blocking the PAR-1 (4). Much less is known about its effects on endothelial cell activation, especially in terms of Tissue Factor but it has been proposed that aprotinin may also exert protective effects at the endothelial level via protease-activated receptors (PAR1 and PAR2). In this study we simulated in vitro the effects of endothelial cell activation during CPB by stimulating Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECs) with a proinflammatory cytokine released during CPB, Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF-a) and characterize the effects of aprotinin treatment on TF expression, PAR1 and PAR2 expression, cytokine release IL-6 and tPA secretion.  In order to investigate the mechanism of action of aprotinin we studied its effects on PAR activation by various agonists and ligands.

These experiments provide insight into the effects of aprotinin on endothelial related coagulation mechanisms in terms of Tissue Factor expression and indicate it effects are mediated through Protease-Activated Receptors (PAR), which are seven membrane spanning proteins called G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), that link coagulant and inflammatory pathways. Therefore, in this study we examine the effects of aprotinin on the human endothelial cell coagulation biology by different-dose aprotinin, 200 and 1600units.  The data demonstrates that aprotinin appears to directly alter endothelial expression of inflammatory cytokines, tPA and PAR receptor expression following treatment with TNF.  The direct mechanism of action is unknown but may act via local protease inhibition directly on endothelial cells.  It is hoped that with improved understanding of the mechanisms of action of aprotinin, especially an antithrombotic effect at the endothelial level the fears of prothrombotic tendency may be lessened and its use will become more routine.  

METHODS Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells (HUVECS) used as our model to study the effects of endothelial cell activation on coagulant biology. In order to simulate the effects of cardiopulmonary bypass at the endothelial cell interface we stimulated the cells with the proinflammatory cytokine TNFa. In the study group the HUVECs were pretreated with low (200kIU/mL) and high (1600kIU/mL) dosages of aprotinin prior to stimulation with TNFa and complement activation fragments. The effects of TNFa stimulation upon endothelial Tissue Factor expression, PAR1 and PAR2 expression, and tPA and IL6 secretion were determined and compared between control and aprotinin treated cells. In order to delineate whether aprotinin blocks PAR activation via its protease inhibition properties we directly activated PAR1 and PAR2 using specific agonist ligands such thrombin (PAR1), trypsin, Factor VIIa, Factor Xa (PAR2) in the absence and presence of aprotinin.

Endothelial Cell Culture HUVECs were supplied from Clonetics. The cells were grown in EBM-2 containing 2MV bullet kit, including 5% FBS, 100-IU/ml penicillin, 0.1mg/mL streptomycin, 2mmol/L L-glutamine, 10 U/ml heparin, 30µg/mL EC growth supplement (ECGS). Before the stimulation cells were starved in 0.1%BSA depleted with FBS and growth factors for 24 hours. Cells were sedimented at 210g for 10 minutes at 4C and then resuspended in culture media. The HUVECs to be used will be between 3 and 5 passages.

Assay of IL-6 and tPA production Levels of IL-6 were measured with an ELISA based kit (RDI, MN) according to the manufacturers instructions. tPA was measured using a similar kit (American Diagnostica).

  Flow Cytometry The expression of transmembrane proteins PAR1, PAR2 and tissue factor were measured by single color assay as FITC labeling agent. Prepared suspension of cells disassociated trypsin free cell disassociation solution (Gibco) to be labeled. First well washed, and resuspended into “labeling buffer”, phosphate buffered saline (PBS) containing 0.5% BSA plus 0.1% NaN3, and 5% fetal bovine serum to block Fc and non-specific Ig binding sites. Followed by addition of 5mcl of antibody to approx. 1 million cells in 100µl labeling buffer and incubate at 4C for 1 hour. After washing the cells with 200µl with wash buffer, PBS + 0.1% BSA + 0.1% NaN3, the cells were pelletted at 1000rpm for 2 mins. Since the PAR1 and PAR2 were directly labeled with FITC these cells were fixed for later analysis by flow cytometry in 500µl PBS containing 1%BSA + 0.1% NaN3, then add equal volume of 4% formalin in PBS. For tissue factor raised in mouse as monoclonal primary antibody, the pellet resuspended and washed twice more as before, and incubated at 4C for 1 hour addition of 5µl donkey anti-mouse conjugated with FITC secondary antibody directly to the cell pellets at appropriate dilution in labeling buffer. After the final wash three times, the cell pellets were resuspended thoroughly in fixing solution. These fixed and labeled cells were then stored in the dark at 4C until there were analyzed. On analysis, scatter gating was used to avoid collecting data from debris and any dead cells. Logarithmic amplifiers for the fluorescence signal were used as this minimizes the effects of different sensitivities between machines for this type of data collection.  

Intracellular Calcium Measurement

Measured the intracellular calcium mobilization by Fluo-3AM. HUVECs were grown in calcium and phenol free EBM basal media containing 2MV bullet kit. Then the cell cultures were starved with the same media by 0.1% BSA without FBS for 24 hour with or without TNFa stimulation presence or absence of aprotinin (200 and 1600KIU/ml). Next the cells were loaded with Fluo-3AM 5µg/ml containing agonists, PAR1 specific peptide SFLLRN-PAR1 inhibitor, PAR2 specific peptide SLIGKV-PAR2 inhibitor, human alpha thrombin, trypsin, factor VIIa, factor Xa for an hour at 37C in the incubation chamber. Finally the media was replaced by Flou-3AM free media and incubated for another 30 minutes in the incubation chamber. The readings were taken at fluoromatic bioplate reader. For comparison purposes readings were taken before and during Fluo-3AM loading as well.  

RESULTS Aprotinin reduces IL-6 production from activated/stimulated HUVECS The effects of aprotinin analyzed on HUVEC for the anti-inflammatory effects of aprotinin at cultured HUVECS with high and low doses.  Figure 1 shows that TNF-a stimulated a considerable increase in IL-6 production, 370.95 ± 109.9 mg/mL.   If the drug is used alone the decrease of IL-6 at the low dose is 50% that is 183.95 ng/ml and with the high dose of 20% that is 338.92 from 370.95ng/ml being compared value.  TNFa-aprotinin results in reduction of the IL-6 expression from 370.95ng/ml to 58.6 (6.4fold) fro A200 and 75.85 (4.9 fold) ng/ml, for A1600.  After the treatment the cells reach to the below baseline limit of IL-6 expression. Aprotinin at the high dose (1600kIU/mL), 183.95 ± 13.06mg/mL but not low dose (200kIU/mL) significantly reduced IL-6 production from TNF-a stimulated HUVECS (p=0.043).  Therefore, the aprotinin prevents inflammation as well as loss of blood.  

Aprotinin reduces tPA production from stimulated HUVECS Whether aprotinin exerted part of its fibrinolytic effects through inhibition of tPA mediated plasmin generation examined by the effects on TNFa stimulated HUVECS. Figure 2 also demonstrates that the amount of tPA released from HUVECS under resting, non-stimulated conditions incubated with aprotinin are significantly different. Figure 2 represents that the resting level of tPA released from non-stimulated cells significantly, by 100%, increase following TNF-a stimulation for 24 hours.  After application of aprotinin alone at two doses the tPA level goes down 25% of TNFa stimulated cells.  However, aprotinin treatment of TNF-a activated endothelial cells significantly lower the amount of tPA release in a dose dependent manner that is low dose decreased 25 but high dose causes 50% decrease of tPA expression (A200 p=0.0018, A1600 p=0.033) This finding suggests that aprotinin exerts a direct inhibitory effect on endothelial cell tPA production.

Aprotinin and receptor expression on activated HUVECS

TF is expressed when the cell in under stress such as TNFa treatments. The stimulated HUVECs with TNF-a tested for the expression of PAR1, PAR2, and tissue factor by single color flow cytometry through FITC labeled detection antibodies at 1, 3, and 24hs.


Tissue Factor expression is reduced:

Figure 3 demonstrates that there is a fluctuation of TF expression from 1 h to 24h that the TF decreases at first hour after aprotinin application 50% and 25%, A1600 and A200 respectively.  Then at 3 h the expression come back up 50% more than the baseline.  Finally, at 24h the expression of TF becomes almost as same as baseline.  Moreover, TNFa stimulated cells remains 45% higher than baseline after at 3h as well as at 24h.

PAR1 decreased:
Figure 4 demonstrates that aprotinin reduces the PAR1 expression 80% at 24h but there is no affect at 1 and 3 h intervals for both doses.

During the treatment with aprotinin only high dose at 1 hour time interval decreases the PAR1 expression on the cells. This data explains that ECCB is affected due to the expression of PAR1 is lowered by the high dose of aprotinin.

PAR2 is decreased by aprotinin:

  Figure 5 shows the high dose of aprotinin reduces the PAR2 expression close to 25% at 1h, 50% at 3h and none at 24h.  This pattern is exact opposite of PAR1 expression.  Figure 5 demonstrates the 50% decrease at 3h interval only.  Does that mean aprotinin affecting the inflammation first and then coagulation?

This suggests that aprotinin may affect the PAR2 expression at early and switched to PAR1 reduction later time intervals.  This fluctuation can be normal because aprotinin is not a specific inhibitor for proteases.  This approach make the aprotinin work better the control bleeding and preventing the inflammation causing cytokine such as IL-6.

Aprotinin inhibits Calcium fluxes induced by PAR1/2 specific agonists

  The specificity of aprotinin’s actions upon PAR studied the effects of the agent on calcium release following proteolytic and non-proteolytic stimulation of PAR1 and PAR2. Figure 6A (Figure 6) shows the stimulation of the cells with the PAR1 specific peptide (SFLLRN) results in release of calcium from the cells. Pretreatment of the cells with aprotinin has no significant effect on PAR1 peptide stimulated calcium release. This suggests that aprotinin has no effect upon the non-proteolytic direct activation of the PAR 1 receptor. Yet, Figure 6B (Figure 6) demonstrates human alpha thrombin does interact with the drug as a result the calcium release drops below base line after high dose (A1600) aprotinin used to zero but low dose does not show significant effect on calcium influx. Figure 7 demonstrates the direct PAR2 and indirect PAR2 stimulation by hFVIIa, hFXa, and trypsin of cells.  Similarly, at Figure 7A aprotinin has no effect upon PAR2 peptide stimulated calcium release, however, at figures 7B, C, and D shows that PAR2 stimulatory proteases Human Factor Xa, Human Factor VIIa and Trypsin decreases calcium release. These findings indicate that aprotinin’s mechanism of action is directed towards inhibiting proteolytic cleavage and hence subsequent activation of the PAR1 and PAR2 receptor complexes.  The binding site of the aprotinin on thrombin possibly is not the peptide sequence interacting with receptors.

Measurement of calcium concentration is essential to understand the mechanism of aprotinin on endothelial cell coagulation and inflammation because these mechanisms are tightly controlled by presence of calcium.  For example, activation of PAR receptors cause activation of G protein q subunit that leads to phosphoinositol to secrete calcium from endoplasmic reticulum into cytoplasm or activation of DAG to affect Phospho Lipase C (PLC). In turn, certain calcium concentration will start the serial formation of chain reaction for coagulation.  Therefore, treatment of the cells with specific factors, thrombin receptor activating peptides (TRAPs), human alpha thrombin, trypsin, human factor VIIa, and human factor Xa, would shed light into the effect of aprotinin on the formation of complexes for pro-coagulant activity.    DISCUSSION   There are two fold of outcomes to be overcome during cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB):  mechanical stress and the contact of blood with artificial surfaces results in the activation of pro- and anticoagulant systems as well as the immune response leading to inflammation and systemic organ failure.  This phenomenon causes the “postperfusion-syndrome”, with leukocytosis, increased capillary permeability, accumulation of interstitial fluid, and organ dysfunction.  CPB is also associated with a significant inflammatory reaction, which has been related to complement activation, and release of various inflammatory mediators and proteolytic enzymes. CPB induces an inflammatory state characterized by tumor necrosis factor-alpha release. Aprotinin, a low molecular-weight peptide inhibitor of trypsin, kallikrein and plasmin has been proposed to influence whole body inflammatory response inhibiting kallikrein formation, complement activation and neutrophil activation (5, 6). But shown that aprotinin has no significant influence on the inflammatory reaction to CPB in men.  Understanding the endothelial cell responses to injury is therefore central to appreciating the role that dysfunction plays in the preoperative, operative, and postoperative course of nearly all cardiovascular surgery patients.  Whether aprotinin increases the risk of thrombotic complications remains controversial.   The anti-inflammatory properties of aprotinin in attenuating the clinical manifestations of the systemic inflammatory response following cardiopulmonary bypass are well known(15) 16)  However its mechanisms and targets of action are not fully understood. In this study we have investigated the actions of aprotinin at the endothelial cell level. Our experiments showed that aprotinin reduced TNF-a induced IL-6 release from cultured HUVECS. Thrombin mediates its effects through PAR-1 receptor and we found that aprotinin reduced the expression of PAR-1 on the surface of HUVECS after 24 hours incubation. We then demonstrated that aprotinin inhibited endothelial cell PAR proteolytic activation by thrombin (PAR-1), trypsin, factor VII and factor X (PAR-2) in terms of less release of Ca preventing the activation of coagulation.  So aprotinin made cells produce less receptor, PAR1, PAR2, and TF as a result there would be less Ca++ release.    Our findings provide evidence for anti-inflammatory as well as anti-coagulant properties of aprotinin at the endothelial cell level, which may be mediated through its inhibitory effects on proteolytic activation of PARs.   IL6   Elevated levels of IL-6 have been shown to correlate with adverse outcomes following cardiac surgery in terms of cardiac dysfunction and impaired lung function(Hennein et al 1992). Cardiopulmonary bypass is associated with the release of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6, IL-8 and TNF-a.  IL-6 is produced by T-cells, endothelial cells as a result monocytes and plasma levels of this cytokine tend to increase during CPB (21, 22). In some studies aprotinin has been shown to reduce levels of IL-6 post CPB(23) Hill(5). Others have failed to demonstrate an inhibitory effect of aprotinin upon pro-inflammatory cytokines following CPB(24) (25).  Our experiments showed that aprotinin significantly reduced the release of IL-6 from TNF-a stimulated endothelial cells, which may represent an important target of its anti-inflammatory properties. Its has been shown recently that activation of HUVEC by PAR-1 and PAR-2 agonists stimulates the production of IL-6(26). Hence it is possible that the effects of aprotinin in reducing IL-6 may be through targeting activation of such receptors.   TPA   Tissue Plasminogen activator is stored, ready made, in endothelial cells and it is released at its highest levels just after commencing CPB and again after protamine administration. The increased fibrinolytic activity associated with the release of tPA can be correlated to the excessive bleeding postoperatively. Thrombin is thought to be the major stimulus for release of t-PA from endothelial cells. Aprotinin’s haemostatic properties are due to direct inhibition of plasmin, thereby reducing fibrinolytic activity as well as inhibiting fibrin degradation.  Aprotinin has not been shown to have any significant effect upon t-PA levels in patients post CPB(27), which would suggest that aprotinin reduced fibrinolytic effects are not the result of inhibition of t-PA mediated plasmin generation. Our study, however demonstrates that aprotinin inhibits the release of t-PA from activated endothelial cells, which may represent a further haemostatic mechanism at the endothelial cell level.   TF   Resting endothelial cells do not normally express tissue factor on their cell surface. Inflammatory mediators released during CPB such as complement (C5a), lipopolysaccharide, IL-6, IL-1, TNF-a, mitogens, adhesion molecules and hypoxia may induce the expression of tissue factor on endothelial cells and monocytes. The expression of TF on activated endothelial cells activates the extrinsic pathway of coagulation, ultimately resulting in the generation of thrombin and fibrin. Aprotinin has been shown to reduce the expression of TF on monocytes in a simulated cardiopulmonary bypass circuit (28).

We found that treatment of activated endothelial cells with aprotinin significantly reduced the expression of TF after 24 hours. This would be expected to result in reduced thrombin generation and represent an additional possible anticoagulant effect of aprotinin. In a previous study from our laboratory we demonstrated that there were two peaks of inducible TF activity on endothelial cells, one immediately post CPB and the second at 24 hours (29). The latter peak is thought to be responsible for a shift from the initial fibrinolytic state into a procoagulant state.  In addition to its established early haemostatic and coagulant effect, aprotinin may also have a delayed anti-coagulant effect through its inhibition of TF mediated coagulation pathway. Hence its effects may counterbalance the haemostatic derangements, i.e. first bleeding then thrombosis caused by CPB. The anti-inflammatory effects of aprotinin may also be related to inhibition of TF and thrombin generation. PARs  

It has been suggested that aprotinin may target PAR on other cells types, especially endothelial cells. We investigated the role of PARs in endothelial cell activation and whether they can be the targets for aprotinin.  In recent study by Day group(30) demonstrated that endothelial cell activation by thrombin and downstream inflammatory responses can be inhibited by aprotinin in vitro through blockade of protease-activated receptor 1. Our results provide a new molecular basis to help explain the anti-inflammatory properties of aprotinin reported clinically.    The finding that PAR-2 can also be activated by the coagulation enzymes factor VII and factor X indicates that PAR may represent the link between inflammation and coagulation.  PAR-2 is believed to play an important role in inflammatory response. PAR-2 are widely expressed in the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, kidney, liver, airway, prostrate, ovary, eye of endothelial, epithelial, smooth muscle cells, T-cells and neutrophils. Activation of PAR-2 in vivo has been shown to be involved in early inflammatory processes of leucocyte recruitment, rolling, and adherence, possibly through a mechanism involving platelet-activating factor (PAF)   We investigated the effects of TNFa stimulation on PAR-1 and PAR-2 expression on endothelial cells. Through functional analysis of PAR-1 and PAR-2 by measuring intracellular calcium influx we have demonstrated that aprotinin blocks proteolytic cleavage of PAR-1 by thrombin and activation of PAR-2 by the proteases trypsin, factor VII and factor X.  This confirms the previous findings on platelets of an endothelial anti-thrombotic effect through inhibition of proteolysis of PAR-1. In addition, part of aprotinin’s anti-inflammatory effects may be mediated by the inhibition of serine proteases that activate PAR-2. There have been conflicting reports regarding the regulation of PAR-1 expression by inflammatory mediators in cultured human endothelial cells. Poullis et al first showed that thrombin induced platelet aggregation was mediated by via the PAR-1(4) and demonstrated that aprotinin inhibited the serine protease thrombin and trypsin induced platelet aggregation. Aprotinin did not block PAR-1 activation by the non-proteolytic agonist peptide, SFLLRN indicating that the mechanism of action was directed towards inhibiting proteolytic cleavage of the receptor. Nysted et al showed that TNF did not affect mRNA and cell surface protein expression of PAR-1 (35), whereas Yan et al showed downregulation of PAR-1 mRNA levels (36). Once activated PAR1 and PAR2 are rapidly internalized and then transferred to lysosomes for degradation.

Endothelial cells contain large intracellular pools of preformed receptors that can replace the cleaved receptors over a period of approximately 2 hours, thus restoring the capacity of the cells to respond to thrombin. In this study we found that after 1-hour stimulation with TNF there was a significant upregulation in PAR-1 expression. However after 3 hours and 24 hours there was no significant change in PAR-1 expression suggesting that cleaved receptors had been internalized and replenished. Aprotinin was interestingly shown to downregulate PAR-1 expression on endothelial cells at 1 hour and increasingly more so after 24 hours TNF stimulation. These findings may suggest an effect of aprotinin on inhibiting intracellular cycling and synthesis of PAR-1.    

Conclusions   Our study has identified the anti-inflammatory and coagulant effects of aprotinin at the endothelial cell level. All together aprotinin affects the ECCB by reducing the t-PA, IL-6, PAR1, PAR 2, TF expressions. Our data correlates with the previous foundlings in production of tPA (7, (8) 9) 10), and  decreased IL-6 levels (11) during coronary artery bypass graft surgery (12-14). We have importantly demonstrated that aprotinin may target proteolytic activation of endothelial cell associated PAR-1 to exert a possible anti-inflammatory effect. This evidence should lessen the concerns of a possible prothrombotic effect and increased incidence of graft occlusion in coronary artery bypass patients treated with aprotinin. Aprotinin may also inhibit PAR-2 proteolytic activation, which may represent a key mechanism for attenuating the inflammatory response at the critical endothelial cell level. Although aprotinin has always been known as a non-specific protease inhibitor we would suggest that there is growing evidence for a PAR-ticular mechanism of action.  


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Figure 1: IL-6 production following TNF-a stimulation Figure 1

Figure 2:  tPA production following TNF-a stimulation Figure 2

Figure 3:  Tissue Factor Expression on TNF-a stimulated HUVECS Figure 3

Figure 4:  PAR-1 Expression on TNF-a stimulated HUVECS Figure 4

Figure 5:  PAR-2 Expression on TNF-a stimulated HUVECS Figure 5

Figure 6:  Calcium Fluxes following PAR1 Activation Figure 6

Figure 7:  Calcium Fluxes following PAR2 Activation Figure 7


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