Heparin cofactor II (HCII) is a serine protease inhibitor (serpin) that has been shown to be a predictor of decreased atherosclerosis in the elderly and protective against atherosclerosis in mice. HCII inhibits thrombin in vitro and HCII-thrombin complexes have been detected in human plasma. Moreover, the mechanism of protection against atherosclerosis in mice was determined to be the inhibition of thrombin. Despite this evidence, the presence of HCII in human atherosclerotic tissue has not been reported. In this study, using samples of coronary arteries obtained from the Pathobiological Determinants of Atherosclerosis in Youth (PDAY) study, we explore the local relationship between HCII and (pro)thrombin in atherosclerosis. We found that HCII and (pro)thrombin are co-localized in the lipid-rich necrotic core of atheromas. A significant positive correlation between each protein and the severity of the atherosclerotic lesion was present. These results suggest that HCII is in a position to inhibit thrombin in atherosclerotic lesions where thrombin can exert a proatherogenic inflammatory response. However, these results should be tempered by the additional findings from this, and other studies, that indicate the presence of other plasma proteins (antithrombin, albumin, and α1-protease inhibitor) in the same localized region of the atheroma.
- Heparin cofactor II
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Biochemistry
- Molecular Biology
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine