This study compares the pharmacokinetic and the antithrombotic properties of two pentasaccharides with high affinity to antithrombin III with those of a conventional low molecular weight heparin, CY216, in the rabbit. On a weight basis, SR 90107A/ORG 31540 (natural pentasaccharide [NPS]) and SR 80027A/ORG 31550 (sulfated pentasaccharide [SPS]) were, respectively, 4.7 and 26 times more potent antifactor Xa inhibitory agents than CY216. They were devoid of antithrombin activity, whereas the antifactor Xa/antithrombin ratio of CY216 was 3.8. After bolus intravenous administration, the clearance (mL/kg/h) of CY216 decreased from 91 +/- 27 for the dose of 12.5 U/kg to 49 +/- 14 for the dose of 50 U/kg and then remained constant up to the highest dose tested (500 U/kg). The clearance of NPS was unrelated to the dose and comparable to that of CY216 over 50 U/kg, whereas that of SPS was 10 times lower. Consistent results were observed after continuous intravenous infusions for 9 hours and subcutaneous administration. The duration of the antithrombotic effect was compared after a single subcutaneous injection of 250 U/kg of either compound in the stasis-Wessler model using human serum as thrombogenic stimulus. Two hours after the injection, the three compounds provided a thrombus prevention of greater than 95% and mean plasma activities of 0.8, 0.9, and 1.9 U/mL for CY216, NPS, and SPS, respectively. Twelve hours after injection, the antithrombotic effects of CY216 and NPS had totally vanished, whereas that of SPS was 68%. At that time, the plasma anti-Xa activities were less than 0.06 U/mL for CY216 and NPS, but 1.1 U/mL for SPS. For the latter compound, significant antithrombotic effects and detectable anti-Xa activities were still recorded 48 hours after the injection. The antithrombotic potency of the three compounds was also compared as their ability to inhibit the growth of a standardized venous thrombosis during 4 hours. The lowest total doses providing the maximum inhibitory effect were 3,125, 1,428, and 62 micrograms/kg for CY216, NPS, and SPS, respectively. These doses generated mean steady state antifactor Xa activities of 1.06, 1.5, and 1.2 anti-Xa U/mL, respectively. These observations indicate that the amplification mechanisms triggered by thrombin bound to fibrin and leading to the generation of new thrombin are essential to ensure venous thrombosis growth and that these mechanisms may be efficiently inhibited by pure antifactor Xa targeting agents.