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Lab Invest. 1996 Oct;75(4):451-61.

In situ localization of tissue factor in human atherosclerotic plaques by binding of digoxigenin-labeled factors VIIa and X.

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Division of Thrombosis Research, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, City University of New York, New York, USA.

Erratum in

  • Lab Invest 1997 Feb;76(2):297-9.


The mechanism responsible for the thrombotic complications of atherosclerotic plaques is not well understood. Although a role for tissue factor (TF) has been hypothesized, there are scant data on the presence, location, quantity, and activity of TF in atherosclerotic plaques. The purpose of this study was to show the localization of TF in human atherosclerotic plaques. Digoxigenin-labeled factors VIIa and X were used to demonstrate their specific binding sites in formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded human arteries by incubation of sections with the labeled factor and localization of TF:factor(s) complexes by immunohistochemical staining for digoxigenin. In sections of atherosclerotic plaques, diffuse staining was most intense in the relatively acellular, lipid-rich core but was also present intracellularly in macrophages and smooth muscle cells and, to a lesser extent, in the relatively acellular fibrous tissue of the plaque. Endothelial cells overlying plaques and occasional medial smooth muscle cells stained positively as well. The adventitia routinely stained for TF in both normal and diseased artery segments. Staining for labeled factor VIIa was blocked when sections were preincubated with a 10-fold excess of unlabeled factor VIIa or with a polyclonal antihuman TF antibody. Binding of labeled factors VIIa and X was Ca(2+)-dependent. In conclusion, binding of digoxigenin-labeled factors VIIa and X shows that the lipid rich core of atherosclerotic plaques contains high levels of extracellular TF. This location may be responsible for the rapid initiation of thrombosis when lipid rich atherosclerotic plaques rupture and the core contents are exposed to flowing blood.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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