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J Atheroscler Thromb. 2009 Oct;16(5):523-31. Epub 2009 Sep 3.

Heparin cofactor II as a novel vascular protective factor against atherosclerosis.

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Department of Medicine and Bioregulatory Sciences, the University of Tokushima, Graduate School of Health Biosciences, Tokushima, Japan.


Heparin cofactor II (HCII) specifically inhibits thrombin action at the site of vascular wall injury. We encountered a congenital HCII deficiency patient with advanced multiple atherosclerotic lesions. This patient led us to conduct clinical studies to examine the role of HCII against atherosclerosis. We found that the incidence of in-stent restenosis after percutaneous coronary intervention, severity of carotid atherosclerosis and prevalence of peripheral arterial disease are inversely associated with plasma HCII activity. In order to clarify the vascular protective action of HCII, we generated HCII- deficient mice by gene targeting. In contrast to a previous study, HCII(-/-) mice were embryonically lethal. In HCII(+/-) mice, accelerated intimal hyperplasia and frequent thrombosis were observed after cuff or wire injury of femoral arteries. The number of protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) -positive cells and the gene expression levels of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines were increased in the thickened vascular walls of HCII(+/-) mice. The accelerated intimal hyperplasia in HCII+/- mice with vascular injury was attenuated by human HCII administration. Furthermore, HCII deficiency exaggerated aortic plaque formation with increased oxidative stress in apolipoprotein E(-/-) mice. These results demonstrate that HCII protects against thrombin-induced vascular remodeling in both humans and mice and suggest that HCII is a predictive biomarker and therapeutic target for atherosclerosis.

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