, Volume 89, Issue 3, pp 160-167

Endothelial function and hemostasis

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The vascular endothelium influences not only the three classically interacting components of hemostasis: the vessel, the blood platelets and the clotting and fibrinolytic systems of plasma, but also the natural sequelae: inflammation and tissue repair. Two principal modes of endothelial behaviour may be differentiated, best defined as an anti- and a prothrombotic state. Under physiological conditions endothelium mediates vascular dilatation (formation of NO, PGI2, adenosine, hyperpolarising factor), prevents platelet adhesion and activation (production of adenosine, NO and PGI2, removal of ADP), blocks thrombin formation (tissue factor pathway inhibitor, activation of protein C via thrombomodulin, activation of antithrombin III) and mitigates fibrin deposition (t- and scu-plasminogen activator production). Adhesion and transmigration of inflammatory leukocytes are attenuated, e.g. by NO and IL-10, and oxygen radicals are efficiently scavenged (urate, NO, glutathione, SOD). When the endothelium is physically disrupted or functionally perturbed by postischemic reperfusion, acute and chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, diabetes and chronic arterial hypertension, then completely opposing actions pertain. This prothrombotic, proinflammatory state is characterised by vasoconstriction, platelet and leukocyte activation and adhesion (externalisation, expression and upregulation of von Willebrand factor, platelet activating factor, P-selectin, ¶ICAM-1, IL-8, MCP-1, TNFα, etc.), promotion of thrombin formation, coagulation and fibrin deposition at the vascular wall (expression of tissue factor, PAI-1, phosphatidyl serine, etc.) and, in platelet-leukocyte coaggregates, additional inflammatory interactions via attachment of platelet CD40-ligand to endothelial, monocyte and B-cell CD40. Since thrombin formation and inflammatory stimulation set the stage for later tissue repair, complete abolition of such endothelial responses cannot be the goal of clinical interventions aimed at limiting procoagulatory, prothrombotic actions of a dysfunctional vascular endothelium.