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J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 30;279(18):18434-9. Epub 2004 Feb 18.

Plasmin-mediated activation of platelets occurs by cleavage of protease-activated receptor 4.

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  • 1Sol Sherry Thrombosis Research Center, Temple University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19140, USA.


The activation of plasmin from its circulating precursor plasminogen is the mechanism of several clot-busting drugs used to clinically treat patients who have suffered a stroke; however, plasmin thus generated has been shown to activate platelets directly. There has been speculation as to whether plasmin interacts with the protease-activated receptors (PARs) because of its similarity in amino acid specificity with the classic platelet activator thrombin. We have investigated whether plasmin activates platelets via PAR activation through multiple complementary approaches. At concentrations sufficient to induce human platelet aggregation, plasmin released very little calcium compared with that induced by thrombin, the PAR-1 agonist peptide SFLLRN, or the PAR-4 agonist peptide AYPGKF. Stimulation of platelets with plasmin initially failed to desensitize additional stimulation with SFLLRN or AYPGKF, but a prolonged incubation with plasmin desensitized platelets to further stimulation by thrombin. The desensitization of PAR-1 had no effect on plasmin-induced platelet aggregation and yielded an aggregation profile that was similar to plasmin in response to a low dose of thrombin. However, PAR-4 desensitization completely eliminated aggregation in response to plasmin. Inclusion of the PAR-1-specific antagonist BMS-200261 inhibited platelet aggregation induced by a low dose of thrombin but not by plasmin. Additionally, mouse platelets naturally devoid of PAR-1 showed a full aggregation response to plasmin in comparison to thrombin. Furthermore, human and mouse platelets treated with a PAR-4 antagonist, as well as platelets isolated from PAR-4 homozygous null mice, failed to aggregate in response to plasmin. Finally, a protease-resistant recombinant PAR-4 was refractory to activation by plasmin. We conclude that plasmin induces platelet aggregation primarily through slow cleavage of PAR-4.

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