Protein C is a vitamin K-dependent plasma protein. Activated protein C is a potent anticoagulant and enhances blood clot lysis. We have developed a functional assay for protein C in human plasma. The measurement of protein C is accomplished by the addition of thrombomodulin, an endothelial-cell-associated cofactor for protein C activation, and thrombin in a 1:1 molar complex. The activated protein C formed in the plasma is immunoadsorbed with goat anti-human protein C IgG-agarose. The immunoadsorbed activated protein C retains the ability to hydrolyze chromogenic substrates, and after unbound plasma proteins are removed by washing, the bound activated protein C is quantitated by incubation with the substrate H-D-phe-pip-arg-p-nitroanilide (S-2238). Normal individuals have functional protein C levels of 3.9–5.9 micrograms/ml, with a mean value of 4.8 micrograms/ml. Individuals undergoing warfarin anticoagulation and patients with advanced liver diseases have decreased levels, as do certain patients with evidence of intravascular clotting. Functional protein C levels correlate well with immunologic levels of the protein in the patient groups studied. Heparin enhances the rate of activated protein C inhibition, as monitored by recovery of activated protein C by immunoadsorption. A patient with recurrent venous thrombosis and abnormal functional protein C activity, but normal levels of antigen, has been identified.

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