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Adv Exp Med Biol. 1975;52:195-215.

Antithrombin III: a backward glance o'er travel'd roads.


By devising and applying quantitative methods for the assay of thrombin and autoprothrombin C and by developing techniques for their purification, it was possible to obtain information about the function and properties of antithrombin. The inhibitor is a protein for which the initial purification steps consist of removing fibrinogen from plasma by heating to 56 degrees for 3 min, removing prothrombin complex by absorption on barium carbonate, absorbing the antithrombin on aluminum hydroxide, and eluting with phosphate buffer. Antithrombin is limited in its capacity to neutralize thrombin activity, and, under some conditions, the rate of inhibition was accelerated, but equivocal results were involved. Heparin cofactor was found to be essential for retarding the formation of thrombin, and, by inference, it is essential for retarding the formation of autoprothrombin C. Heparin cofactor and antithrombin III are the same. Thrombin absorbs on fibrin, and this has been referred to as the "antithrombin I effect." Interference with the thrombin-fibrinogen reaction by mixtures of antithrombin III and heparin is called the "antithrombin II henomenon." The acceleration of thrombin inactivation at the time thrombin forms is called the "antithrombin IV effect." It was discovered that antithrombin III neutralizes thrombin, as well as autoprothrombin C. The inhibitor and the enzyme form a mutual depletion system. To assay for antithrombin III, a standard quantity of thrombin (about 1,100U/ml) was reacted with antithrombin III for 2 hr. The percent thrombin inactivated was then measured. In random samples of human blood, a wide range of antithrombin III concentration was found. The inhibitor is relatively stable in plasma and serum. It is not changed in concentration when Dicumarol therapy is instituted. Ether extraction of plasma reduces antithrombin III activity. Seitz filtration of plasma did not remove activity. Under special conditions, antithrombin III enhances esterase activity of thrombin. Under special conditions, thrombin regenerates from the thrombin-antithrombin III complex. Antithrombin III neutralizes the activity of prethrombin-E and thrombin-E; consequently, an active histidine center found in the B1 chain of thrombin is not essential for the binding of antithrombin. Autoprothrombin II-A activity was neutralized by antithrombin III. Autoprothrombin C was found to be neutralized by antithrombin III; the amounts required varied with the molecular forms of autoprothrombin C. Thrombin and autoprothrombin C apparently occupy the same binding sites on antithrombin III. An equation was developed to account for all the known characteristics of antithrombin III functions. The kinetic aspects of thrombin neutralization were found to correspond exactly with those of autoprothrombin C. Antithrombin III is a high-capacity inhibitor of the two most powerful enzymes in blood coagulation.

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