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Hepatogastroenterology. 1999 Sep-Oct;46(29):2757-63.

Mechanism and role of trypsinogen activation in acute pancreatitis.

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  • 1Chirurgische Klinik I, Universitatsklinikum, Ulm, Germany.


In healthy subjects, the 3 known pancreatic trypsinogens, which are endopeptidases belonging to the chymotrypsin superfamily, are activated by enterokinase and partial autoactivation in the duodenum. The premature activation of trypsinogen in the pancreatic interstitium, with the subsequent activation of other pancreatic zymogens, is believed to lead to the autodigestion of the gland, this being the first event in acute pancreatitis. The mechanisms that lead to trypsinogen, activation in acute pancreatitis are largely unknown. However, ischemia, hypercalcemia and the activation of cathepsin B (by cholecystokinin) are thought to be of importance. The easiest and most reliable way to assess trypsinogen activation is the measurement of the activation peptide, TAP, in urine, plasma, pancreatic tissue or ascitic fluid. In the animal model of acute pancreatitis, TAP in ascites and pancreatic tissue has been shown to correlate with the presence and extent of necroses. It has proven to be a good marker for the severity of pancreatitis and is a useful marker in examining the pathophysiology and possible treatment modalities in the animal model of acute pancreatitis. Studies on TAP in human acute pancreatitis were most commonly focused on urinary TAP. Within a 48-hour time frame after the onset of the disease, TAP was a good predictor of the severity of acute pancreatitis. The main advantage over other markers, such as CRP, is that TAP is the earliest marker of necrosis to be increased. Also, increased levels of TAP in ascitic fluid were shown to correlate well with pancreatic necroses. In our experience, plasma TAP was found to have a "diagnostic window" within the first 3 days predicting pancreatic necroses. Positive TAP gave a very good positive prediction and a high specificity towards the development of pancreatic necroses, but did not differ between necrotizing pancreatitis with systemic complications or uncomplicated necrotizing pancreatitis. We therefore think that plasma TAP is a very good marker for local complication in acute pancreatitis and its routine measurements may help to identify patients at a high risk within the first days of the disease.

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