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Infect Immun. 1992 Oct;60(10):4388-93.

von Willebrand factor release and thrombomodulin and tissue factor expression in Rickettsia conorii-infected endothelial cells.

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  • 1Unité des Rickettsies, Faculté de Médecine, Hôpital de la Conception, Marseille, France.


Mediterranean spotted fever, a tick-borne rickettsiosis caused by Rickettsia conorii, may lead to small-vessel or deep-vein thrombosis. In order to evaluate the role of endothelial cell alteration in this lesion, we infected human endothelial cells derived from umbilical veins with R. conorii. We report the induction of two previously unreported prothrombotic mechanisms in rickettsial disease: (i) a progressive decline in thrombomodulin antigen and (ii) early expression of tissue factor, and, as described for R. rickettsii infection, later release of von Willebrand factor from Weibel-Palade bodies. Thrombomodulin expression in infected endothelial cells, measured by the thrombin-dependent activation of protein C or flow cytometric analysis, decreased steadily between 4 and 24 h after inoculation with rickettsiae. R. conorii infection induced tissue factor expression, measured by clotting assay and flow cytometric analysis, which was detectable 2 h postinoculation, reached its maximum 4 h postinoculation, and progressively decreased thereafter. Infection resulted in a relatively late release of von Willebrand factor antigen into the culture medium. A double-label immunofluorescence assay for the simultaneous evaluation of von Willebrand factor and R. conorii showed that the depletion of cytoplasmic von Willebrand factor stored in Weibel-Palade bodies was due to a direct effect of the intracellular R. conorii. These disturbances of endothelial function observed with R. conorii-infected cells may provide a paradigm for the elucidation of thrombotic pathobiology with Mediterranean spotted fever.

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