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Immunology. 1996 Jan;87(1):134-40.

Release of thrombomodulin from endothelial cells by concerted action of TNF-alpha and neutrophils: in vivo and in vitro studies.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine IV, University of Heidelberg, Germany.


Inflammatory cytokines decrease the expression of thrombomodulin (TM) on the endothelial cell surface by suppression of TM transcription and translation or internalization with subsequent degradation. Nevertheless, elevated serum TM levels are found in diseases associated with systemical or locally increased levels of inflammatory cytokines. To study directly the in vivo effects of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) we determined the course of serum TM after systemic recombinant human (rh)TNF-alpha therapy. The TM levels were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Systemic rhTNF-alpha therapy resulted in a marked and significant increase of serum TM. Using a mouse model we studied whether increased serum TM is associated with a decreased expression of TM on the endothelial surface in vivo. The immunohistochemical staining of the vasculature of meth-A sarcoma transplanted in mice showed a loss of TM immunoreactivity 4 hr after intravenous TNF-alpha application. To study the mechanism of TNF-alpha mediated release of TM, cultured endothelial cells were incubated with neutrophils and TNF-alpha. Incubation with TNF-alpha alone did not lead to an increase of TM in vitro. However TM was released into the culture supernatant when endothelial cells pretreated with TNF-alpha were exposed to neutrophils. This was associated with morphological evidence of endothelial cell damage. Therefore, the concerted action of cytokine-stimulated endothelial cells and neutrophils results in release of TM from cultured endothelial cells after rhTNF-alpha therapy. This might explain the increased serum TM levels observed in diseases associated with increased systemic or local levels of inflammatory cytokines despite the induced internalization and the direct inhibitory effects of TNF-alpha on TM transcription and translation.

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