Esmon CT. Gu JM. Xu J. Qu D. Stearns-Kurosawa DJ. Kurosawa S., Regulation and functions of the protein C anticoagulant pathway. Haematologica. 84(4):363-8, 1999.
The protein C pathway plays a critical role in the negative regulation of the blood clotting process. We recently identified an endothelial cell receptor for protein C/activated protein C (APC). The receptor is localized almost exclusively on endothelial cells of large vessels and is present at only trace levels or indeed absent from capillaries in most tissues. Patients with sepsis or lupus erythematosus exhibit elevated levels of plasma EPCR which migrates on gels as a single band and is fully capable of binding protein C/APC. There is no correlation with thrombomodulin levels, probably due to different vascular localizations and/or cellular release mechanisms. To understand the mechanisms by which EPCR plasma levels are elevated, we examined EPCR mRNA expression in a rat endotoxin shock model. The EPCR mRNA gene exhibited an early immediate gene response to endotoxin with the mRNA levels increasing nearly 4 fold in the first 3-6 hrs, before returning toward baseline. Plasma levels of EPCR also rose about 4 fold with little change in tissue EPCR levels. Both processes were markedly attenuated by hirudin suggesting that thrombin was responsible for increases in mRNA and plasma EPCR levels. At the level of mRNA, the induction is mediated by a thrombin response element in the 5' flanking region of the gene. Direct thrombin infusion and cell culture experiments support this contention. On endothelium, thrombin is capable of releasing cell surface EPCR and this process is blocked by the metalloproteinase inhibitor orthophenanthroline. Taken together these studies indicate that elevation in soluble plasma EPCR reflects endothelial cell activation in the larger vessels and is likely to be an indication of local thrombin generation near these vessel surfaces.