Activated protein C (APC) has both anticoagulant activity via inactivation of factors Va and VIIIa and cytoprotective activities on cells that include anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory activities, alterations of gene expression profiles and protection of endothelial barrier function. The relative importance of APC’s anticoagulant activity vs. APC’s direct cytoprotective effects on cells for reduction of mortality in severe sepsis patients and protective effects in animal injury models is not entirely clear. In this current study, genetically engineered APC variants with different activity spectra were tested for in vivo anti-thrombotic potency. Recently we made a non-anticoagulant APC variant, 5A-APC (RR229/230AA and KKK191-193AAA), that retains normal in vitro cytoprotective effects and an ability to reduce mortality in murine sepsis models (

Kerschen et al,
J Exper Med
). In contrast to 5A-APC, mutation of E149 to A in APC increased anticoagulant activity in clotting assays while diminishing cytoprotective effects on cells. Murine APC variants, E149A-APC and 5A-APC (KKK192-194AAA + RR230/231AA) were used to determine in vivo anti-thrombotic potency in an acute carotid artery thrombosis model in mice, using FeCl3-induced injury. Under the conditions employed, first occlusion occurred within 3.5 min (mean: 171 sec; range 150-200 sec) in the absence of APC. Murine wild type (wt)-APC effectively delayed time to first occlusion in a dose-dependent manner (0 to 1.8 mg/kg wt-APC; mean: 561 sec; range 400-960 sec). The E149A-APC variant exhibited potent in vivo anti-thrombotic activity (1.8 mg/kg; mean: 1020 sec; range 540- >1600 sec) and was superior to wt-APC as evident by the absence of appreciable occlusion in 2/6 E149A-APC vs. 0/6 wt-APC treated animals. Thus E149A-APC was hyperactive in plasma clotting assays as well as hyperactive in an acute FeCl3-induced arterial thrombosis model. To test the hypothesis that an increased protein S cofactor activity contributed to its enhanced anticoagulant activity, E149A-APC anticoagulant activity was tested in normal and protein S deficient plasma. Compared to wt-APC, E149A-APC showed 3-fold increased anticoagulant activity in normal plasma but not in protein S deficient plasma. In studies with purified proteins, protein S concentrations required for half-maximal stimulation of factor Va inactivation by E149A-APC were 3-fold lower compared to wt-APC, whereas factor Va inactivation rates were indistinguishable in the absence of protein S. These data support our hypothesis that increased protein S cofactor activity is, at least partially, responsible for the observed hyper anticoagulant and anti-thrombotic potency in vitro and in vivo. In contrast to E149A-APC, 5A-APC was severely deficient in anti-thrombotic activity in vivo. Even at concentrations up to 8 mg/kg, 5A-APC (mean: 245 sec; range 172-300 sec) failed to delay significantly time to first occlusion compared to no APC. These data highlight important distinctions between structural requirements for APC’s anticoagulant, anti-thrombotic and cytoprotective functions. Engineered APC variants with differentially altered activities (e.g. cytoprotective vs. anticoagulant) may lead to safer or better therapeutic APC variants for a variety of indications including sepsis, ischemic stroke or other pathologies.

Author notes

Disclosure:Consultancy: Socratech LLC. Ownership Interests: Socratech LLC. Research Funding: NIH and ASH. Paid Export Testimony Information: USDOJ. Membership Information: Socratech LLC. Financial Information: The Scripps Research Institute.