The activation of protein C by thrombin is thought to occur at the endothelial cell surface in the presence of an essential membrane glycoprotein cofactor, thrombomodulin. In the present study it is demonstrated that, in the presence of hirudin, the most potent known inhibitor of thrombin, human protein C can be activated by human factor Xa (20 nM), but by a thrombomodulin-independent mechanism requiring only the presence of Ca2+ and phospholipid vesicles bearing a high proportion of negative charges (30-75% phosphatidylserine, depending on the conditions). At an optimal concentration of phosphatidylserine/phosphatidylcholine (1:1, w/w) of 75 microM, the apparent Km was 1 microM with a kcat. of 1 min-1. At 25 microM-phospholipid the Km was unchanged and the kcat. was 0.67 min-1. At either lipid concentration, increasing the density of negative charges by the adjunction of sulphated polysaccharides, like pentosan polysulphate or standard heparin at optimal concentrations of 2-5 micrograms/ml and 5-10 micrograms/ml respectively, resulted in a 4-fold increase of the kcat. without affecting the Km. Sulphated polysaccharides alone were poor promoters of protein C activation by factor Xa. In any case the presence of Ca2+ was essential, the dependence being sigmoidal with Hill coefficients ranging from 1.4 to 2.0. No significant activation of 4-carboxyglutamic acid-domainless protein C, a chymotrypic derivative lacking the phospholipid-binding domain, could be detected in the presence of phospholipids and Ca2+, with or without pentosan polysulphate. In a large molar excess, other phospholipid-binding entities like prothrombin fragments F1 or F1+2 could inhibit protein C activation by factor Xa, but pentosan polysulphate exerted a clear protective effect. Factor Xa irreversibly inhibited at its active centre, but not di-isopropyl phosphoro-thrombin, behaved as an inhibitor but in a more complex manner than simple Michaelis-Menten kinetics. Among several derivatives of pentosan polysulphate or of heparin which were tested, those having the higher degree of sulphation and/or molecular mass were the most efficient in enhancing the rate of activation of protein C by factor Xa in the presence of phospholipids. These results suggest that human factor Xa, at physiological concentrations, could activate human protein C in the presence of anionic phospholipids and that this activation could be potentiated by therapeutic concentrations of sulphated polysaccharides.

This content is only available as a PDF.