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J Biol Chem. 2001 Jun 29;276(26):24122-8. Epub 2001 Apr 20.

Structural and energetic characteristics of the heparin-binding site in antithrombotic protein C.

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  • 1Department of Clinical Chemistry, Lund University, The Wallenberg Laboratory, MAS, SE-205 02 Malmö, Sweden.


Human activated protein C (APC) is a key component of a natural anticoagulant system that regulates blood coagulation. In vivo, the catalytic activity of APC is regulated by two serpins, alpha1-antitrypsin and the protein C inhibitor (PCI), the inhibition by the latter being stimulated by heparin. We have identified a heparin-binding site in the serine protease domain of APC and characterized the energetic basis of the interaction with heparin. According to the counter-ion condensation theory, the binding of heparin to APC is 66% ionic in nature and comprises four to six net ionic interactions. To localize the heparin-binding site, five recombinant APC variants containing amino acid exchanges in loops 37, 60, and 70 (chymotrypsinogen numbering) were created. As demonstrated by surface plasmon resonance, reduction of the electropositive character of loops 37 and 60 resulted in complete loss of heparin binding. The functional consequence was loss in heparin-induced stimulation of APC inhibition by PCI, whereas the PCI-induced APC inhibition in the absence of heparin was enhanced. Presumably, the former observations were due to the inability of heparin to bridge some APC mutants to PCI, whereas the increased inhibition of certain APC variants by PCI in the absence of heparin was due to reduced repulsion between the enzymes and the serpin. The heparin-binding site of APC was also shown to interact with heparan sulfate, albeit with lower affinity. In conclusion, we have characterized and spatially localized the functionally important heparin/heparan sulfate-binding site of APC.

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