Human endothelial cells respond to bacterial endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide [LPS]) with changes that transform the endothelium into a surface with prominent procoagulant properties. Production of tissue factor (TF) in response to LPS is a major alteration that favors coagulation. Biologic activities of LPS have previously been shown to be enhanced by the presence of hemoglobin. Therefore, the ability of human hemoglobin (Hb) to modulate TF production by cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) was investigated. Cell-free Hb (10 mg/mL), either purified native (HbAo) or chemically cross-linked (alpha alpha Hb), was incubated with LPS (0.1 microgram/mL), and the mixtures then were added to HUVEC in culture. TF activity was quantified with a clotting assay and TF protein was measured with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Hb preparations greatly enhanced the production of TF activity (11- to 25-fold greater than TF produced by HUVEC alone) compared with minimal TF activity generated by LPS alone (only twofold greater than HUVEC alone). The enhancement of LPS-induced TF activity was Hb concentration-dependent over a range of 1 to 100 mg/mL. Cross-linked alpha alpha Hb also greatly enhanced the production of TF protein compared with TF protein generated by LPS alone (12-fold greater v 3.5-fold greater than HUVEC alone, respectively). The enhancement of LPS-induced TF protein was Hb concentration-dependent over a range of 0.1 to 2 mg/mL. Enhancement of TF activity by Hb required new protein synthesis. These results show that human Hb can augment the ability of LPS to induce endothelial cell TF and suggest that hemolysis associated with disseminated intravascular coagulation during sepsis may further stimulate coagulation. In addition, these results suggest a potential mechanism for generalized thrombosis in animals that has been associated with the infusion of cell-free Hb for resuscitation.

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