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J Neurochem. 1999 Mar;72(3):980-7.

Mechanism of thrombin clearance by human astrocytoma cells.

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Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Astroglial cells secrete a variety of factors that contribute to the regulation of neurite initiation and continued outgrowth, among them proteases and protease inhibitors. An alteration in the balance between these proteins has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease, resulting in an accumulation of thrombin:protease nexin 1 (PN1) complexes in the brains of these patients. This report aims at providing a biochemical explanation for this phenomenon. We show that human astrocytoma cells bind and internalize thrombin and thrombin:PN1 complexes efficiently by a PN1-dependent mechanism. Binding was potently inhibited by soluble heparin and did not occur with the mutant PN1 (K7E) deficient in heparin binding. Receptor-associated protein, an antagonist of the low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein (LRP), inhibited internalization of thrombin by the astrocytoma cells, but did not affect cell-surface binding. The results are consistent with a mechanism by which astrocytoma cells clear thrombin in a sequential manner: thrombin is first complexed with PN1, then bound to cell-surface heparins, and finally internalized by LRP. This mechanism provides a link between the neuronal growth regulators thrombin and PN1 and proteins genetically associated with Alzheimer's disease, such as LRP.

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