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Dissociation of activated protein C functions by elimination of protein S cofactor enhancement.Activated protein C (APC) plays a critical anticoagulant role in vivo by inactivating procoagulant factor Va and factor VIIIa and thus down-regulating thrombin generation. In addition, APC bound to the endothelial cell protein C receptor can initiate protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1)-mediated cytoprotective signaling. Protein S constitutes a critical cofactor for the anticoagulant function of APC but is not known to be involved in regulating APC-mediated protective PAR-1 signaling. In this study we utilized a site-directed mutagenesis strategy to characterize a putative protein S binding region within the APC Gla domain. Three single amino acid substitutions within the APC Gla domain (D35T, D36A, and A39V) were found to mildly impair protein S-dependent anticoagulant activity (<2-fold) but retained entirely normal cytoprotective activity. However, a single amino acid substitution (L38D) ablated the ability of protein S to function as a cofactor for this APC variant. Consequently, in assays of protein S-dependent factor Va proteolysis using purified proteins or in the plasma milieu, APC-L38D variant exhibited minimal residual anticoagulant activity compared with wild type APC. Despite the location of Leu-38 in the Gla domain, APC-L38D interacted normally with endothelial cell protein C receptor and retained its ability to trigger PAR-1 mediated cytoprotective signaling in a manner indistinguishable from that of wild type APC. Consequently, elimination of protein S cofactor enhancement of APC anticoagulant function represents a novel and effective strategy by which to separate the anticoagulant and cytoprotective functions of APC for potential therapeutic gain.
Platelet factor 4 impairs the anticoagulant activity of activated protein C.Platelet factor 4 (PF4) is an abundant platelet alpha-granule chemokine released following platelet activation. PF4 interacts with thrombomodulin and the gamma-carboxyglutamic acid (Gla) domain of protein C, thereby enhancing activated protein C (APC) generation by the thrombin-thrombomodulin complex. However, the protein C Gla domain not only mediates protein C activation in vivo, but also plays a critical role in modulating the diverse functional properties of APC once generated. In this study we demonstrate that PF4 significantly inhibits APC anti-coagulant activity. PF4 inhibited both protein S-dependent APC anticoagulant function in plasma and protein S-dependent factor Va (FVa) proteolysis 3- to 5-fold, demonstrating that PF4 impairs protein S cofactor enhancement of APC anticoagulant function. Using recombinant factor Va variants FVa-R506Q/R679Q and FVa-R306Q/R679Q, PF4 was shown to impair APC proteolysis of FVa at position Arg(306) by 3-fold both in the presence and absence of protein S. These data suggest that PF4 contributes to the poorly understood APC resistance phenotype associated with activated platelets. Finally, despite PF4 binding to the APC Gla domain, we show that APC in the presence of PF4 retains its ability to initiate PAR-1-mediated cytoprotective signaling. In summary, we propose that PF4 acts as a critical regulator of APC generation, but also differentially targets APC toward cytoprotective, rather than anticoagulant function at sites of vascular injury with concurrent platelet activation.