, Volume 61, Issue 7-8, pp 873-885

Novel aspects and new roles for the serine protease plasmin

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Abstract

The serine protease plasmin is distributed throughout the human body in the form of the zymogen plasminogen. The plasminogen activation system is mostly recognized for its fibrinolytic activity but is also upregulated in chronic inflammatory diseases, including atherosclerosis and arthritis. Plasmin can bind to a variety of cells, including monocytes, through low-affinity binding sites and triggers aggregation of neutrophils, platelet degranulation and arachidonate release from endothelial cells. In monocytes, plasmin elicits full-scale proinflammatory activation, including lipid mediator release, chemotaxis and cytokine expression, as well as induction of other proinflammatory genes. The effects of plasmin are specific, require the active catalytic center and can be antagonized by lysine analogues, implying binding of the plasmin molecule to the cell membrane through its lysine binding sites. In view of the upregulation of the fibrinolytic genes in chronic inflammatory diseases, cell activation by plasmin is likely to play a major pathophysiological role, a view that is further supported by data from transgenic mice.

Received 9 September 2003; received after revision 4 October 2003; accepted 13 October 2003