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Infect Immun. 1993 Dec;61(12):5035-43.

Alpha-2-macroglobulin functions as an inhibitor of fibrinolytic, clotting, and neutrophilic proteinases in sepsis: studies using a baboon model.

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Central Laboratory of The Netherlands Red Cross Blood Transfusion Service, University of Amsterdam.


Alpha-2-macroglobulin (alpha 2M) may function as a proteinase inhibitor in vivo. Levels of this protein are decreased in sepsis, but the reason these levels are low is unknown. Therefore, we analyzed the behavior of alpha 2M in a baboon model for sepsis. Upon challenge with a lethal (4 baboons) or a sublethal (10 baboons) dose of Escherichia coli, levels of inactivated alpha 2M (i alpha 2M) steadily increased, the changes being more pronounced in the animals that received the lethal dose. The rise in i alpha 2M significantly correlated with the increase of thrombin-antithrombin III, plasmin-alpha 2-antiplasmin, and, to a lesser extent, with that of elastase-alpha 1-antitrypsin complexes, raising the question of involvement of fibrinolytic, clotting, and neutrophilic proteinases in the inactivation of alpha 2M. Experiments with chromogenic substrates confirmed that thrombin, plasmin, elastase, and cathepsin G indeed had formed complexes with alpha 2M. Changes in alpha 2M similar to those observed in the animals that received E. coli occurred in baboons challenged with Staphylococcus aureus, indicating that alpha 2M formed complexes with the proteinases just mentioned in gram-positive sepsis as well. We conclude that alpha 2M in this baboon model for sepsis is inactivated by formation of complexes with proteinases, derived from activated neutrophils and from fibrinolytic and coagulation cascades. We suggest that similar mechanisms may account for the decreased alpha 2M levels in clinical sepsis.

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