Cathepsin G, an enzyme released by stimulated polymorphonuclear neutrophils, and thrombin are two human proteinases which potently trigger platelet activation. Unlike thrombin, the mechanisms by which cathepsin G initiates platelet activation have yet to be elucidated. The involvement of the phospholipase C (PLC)/protein kinase C (PKC) pathway in cathepsin G-induced activation was investigated and compared with stimulation by thrombin. Exposure of 5-[14C]hydroxytryptamine-labelled platelets to cathepsin G, in the presence of acetylsalicylic acid and phosphocreatine/creatine kinase, induced platelet aggregation and degranulation in a concentration-dependent manner (0.1-3.0 μM). Time-course studies (0-180 s) comparing equivalent concentrations of cathepsin G (3 μM) and thrombin (0.5 unit/ml) resulted in very similar transient hydrolysis of phosphatidylinositol 4,5-bisphosphate and steady accumulation of phosphatidic acid. In addition cathepsin G, like thrombin, initiated the production of inositol phosphates. The neutrophil-derived proteinase also induced phosphorylation of both the myosin light chain and pleckstrin, a substrate for PKC, to levels similar to those observed in platelets challenged with thrombin. Inhibition of PKC by GF 109203X, a specific inhibitor, suppressed platelet aggregation and degranulation to the same extent for both proteinases. Using fura 2-loaded platelets, the rise in the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration induced by cathepsin G was shown to result, as for thrombin, from both mobilization of internal stores and Ca2+ entry across the plasma membrane. These findings provide evidence that cathepsin G stimulates the PLC/PKC pathway as potently as does thrombin, independently of thromboxane A2 formation and ADP release, and that this pathway is required for platelet functional responses.

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