Thrombosis is a common pathology underlying ischemic heart disease, stroke, and venous thromboembolism. D-dimer is a global indicator of blood coagulation activation and fibrinolysis and, therefore, an indirect marker of thrombotic activity. D-dimers half-life is 48 hours. D-dimer determination is the standard procedure in the treatment of thrombosis. Serine protease thrombin plays pivotal roles in thrombosis and hemostasis, blood coagulation and platelet activation. Thrombin has a short half-life and naturally occurring inhibitors, such as antithrombin, rapidly bind thrombin, which makes the direct measurements of in vivo active thrombin difficult. Thrombin binds to fibrin where it is quite efficiently protected from inhibition by heparin-antithrombin but susceptible to inactivation by different antithrombin-independent inhibitors. There are two low affinity non-substrate thrombin binding sites, one in each half of the dimeric fibrinogen E region, and one high affinity thrombin non-substrate binding site on fibrinogen gamma' chains inside the D region (Meh DA, Siebenlist KR, Mosesson MW, J Biol Chem. 1996, 23121-5). We have shown that thrombin bound to fibrin promotes further fibrin growth in the presence of fibrinogen and absence of free thrombin in solution (Riedel T, Brynda E, Dyr JE, Houska, M, J. Biomed. Mater. Res. Part A 2009, 437-447). The aim of this project was to look for any thrombin activity on isolated D-dimers using several commercial D-dimer kits in groups of patients with elevated D-dimers.


Three D-dimers kits were used (ELISA kits CEA506Hu, USCN and D-Dimer (D2D), BioAssay™; and immunoturbidimetric assay D-Dimer KAI-090, K-ASSAY). To detect thrombin activity on captured D-dimers one chromogenic (S-2238, Chromogenix) and two fluorogenic (SN-59, Haematologic Technologies, Inc.; (p-tosyl-Gly-Pro-Arg)2-R110, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc.) specific substrates and specific inhibitors (hirudine and PPACK) were used. Independently, bound proteins were removed from immobilized antibodies in 8 M urea and after treatment with trypsin analyzed by mass spectrometry (TripleTOF 5600, Sciex). 34 patients with high, moderate, and low levels of D-dimers and with different diagnosis were analyzed.


Out of 18 patients with main diagnosis linked with thrombosis 61 % exhibited active thrombin on D-dimers. In these patients we found active thrombin bound to D-dimers captured by antibodies in all applied D-dimer kits. Using mass spectrometry thrombin bound to isolated D-dimers was detected. Specificity of thrombin activity related to D-dimers was determined by combination of several specific thrombin substrates and inhibitors. The activity of bound thrombin was remarkably stable over the period of more than 24 hours. It showed that precise measurement of even very low activity of thrombin was possible. In the group of 16 non-thrombotic patients with elevated D-dimers only 19 % exhibited thrombin activity. Interestingly, differences in values of thrombin activity were up to five orders of magnitude and differences in the activities related to the value of captured D-dimers were even greater.


This, to our knowledge, is the first report showing the presence of active thrombin bound to circulating D-dimers. Although the group of patients we were so far able to evaluate is too small to being statistically tested, the results are highly encouraging. The amount of bound active thrombin on fibrin degradation products reflects the way of thrombus formation and its degradation (times, durations and rates of relevant reactions and especially the rate of thrombin generation). The thrombin concentration present at the time of fibrin gelation plays an important role in formation of fibrin clot structure, including its mechanical and fibrinolytic stability. It remains to be seen in further studies with much larger cohorts of patients if the presence of active thrombin has any impact on pathophysiology of thrombosis and if its determination may be of importance for the improvement of diagnosis of thrombotic events.

Supported by the project of the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic for conceptual development of the research organization 00023736, by Grant from the Academy of Sciences, Czech Republic (P205/12/G118), and by ERDF OPPK CZ.2.1.16/3.1.00/28007.


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.

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