Fucoidans are sulfated polysaccharides extracted from brown algae. Fucoidans have a wide variety of biological activities including pro- and anticoagulant activities, which occur at different concentration ranges. Therefore, fucoidans have also been described as non-anticoagulant sulfated polysaccharides (NASPs, Liu et al. Thromb Haemost 2006; 95:68). Fucoidans have complex structures due to their large molecular weight (Mw), wide Mw distribution, variable degree and pattern of sulfation, diverse monosaccharide composition, branching of the sugar chain and different monomer linkages. This structural complexity challenges identification of the components responsible for fucoidan activities.
The aim of the presented study was to fractionate Fucus vesiculosus (F.v.) fucoidan by size and to de- and oversulfate it to obtain compounds of varying Mw or degree of sulfation (DS), respectively. The fucoidans were then to be analyzed for their pro-and anticoagulant activities and structure, and the effect of modified fucoidan on the target protein Tissue Factor Pathway Inhibitor (TFPI) investigated.
Two approaches were applied to generate F.v. fucoidan with different structural properties to the original. Firstly, fucoidan was fractionated by size using ultrafiltration. The Mw of the resulting fractions ranged from 8–180 kD. NMR, elemental analysis and HPAEC showed that other structural features, such as sulfate content and monosaccharide composition, were similar to those of the original fucoidan. Thrombin generation (CAT) assays showed an EC50 for procoagulant activity of 0.3–3 μg/mL; aPTT increased by 50% at 4–25 μg/mL. Generally, higher Mw increased procoagulant activity. Below 15 kD, this activity was markedly reduced. The minimum active length of F.v. fucoidan was 70 carbohydrate units.
De- and oversulfated F.v. fucoidans were used to investigate the impact of charge on pro- and anticoagulant activities. In the CAT assay, oversulfated fucoidans showed improved procoagulant activity with an EC50 of 0.09–0.12 μg/mL, while desulfated fucoidans demonstrated reduced procoagulant activity compared to the original. A DS of 0.5 was estimated to be the limit for procoagulant activity. Inhibition of TFPI by fucoidan was assessed with a dilute prothrombin time assay (dPT) with added full-length TFPI. TFPI-blocking activity was mainly dependent on the DS and less on the fucoidans' Mw. Interestingly, oversulfation also stimulated an undesired activation of the contact pathway.
The presented study determined the minimal structural requirements for procoagulant activity of fucoidan molecules and identified features causing undesired biological effects.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.