Elevated plasma t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) and serum CRP (C-reactive protein) concentrations are associated with an adverse cardiovascular risk. In the present study, we investigated whether acute local inflammation causes vascular dysfunction and influences t-PA release in patients with stable coronary heart disease. Serum CRP, plasma t-PA and PAI-1 (plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1) concentrations were determined in 95 patients with stable coronary heart disease. A representative subpopulation of 12 male patients received an intra-brachial infusion of TNF-α (tumour necrosis factor-α) and saline placebo using a randomized double-blind cross-over study design. Forearm blood flow and plasma fibrinolytic and inflammatory variables were measured. Serum CRP concentrations correlated with plasma t-PA concentrations (r=0.37, P<0.001) and t-PA/PAI-1 ratio (r=−0.21, P<0.05). Intra-arterial TNF-α caused a rise in t-PA concentrations (P<0.001) without affecting blood flow or PAI-1 concentrations. TNF-α pretreatment impaired acetylcholine- and sodium nitroprusside-induced vasodilatation (P<0.001 for both) whilst doubling bradykinin-induced t-PA release (P=0.006). In patients with stable coronary heart disease, plasma fibrinolytic factors correlate with a systemic inflammatory marker and local vascular inflammation directly impairs vasomotor function whilst enhancing endothelial t-PA release. We suggest that the adverse prognosis associated with elevated plasma t-PA concentrations relates to the underlying causative association with vascular inflammation and injury.

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