The inhibition mechanism of a polysaccharide anticoagulant, depolymerized holothurian glycosaminoglycan (DHG), was examined by analyzing its effects on the clotting time of human plasma depleted of antithrombin III (ATIII), of heparin cofactor II (HCII), or of both heparin cofactors. The effect exerted by this agent on the activation of prothrombin and factor X in purified human components were also examined and all effects were compared with those of other glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). The capacity of DHG to prolong activated partial thromboplastin time was not reduced in ATIII-depleted, HCII- depleted, HCII-depleted, or ATIII- and HCII-depleted plasma, whereas its capacity to prolong prothrombin time and thrombin clotting time was reduced in HCII-depleted plasma. DHG inhibited the amidolytic activity of thrombin in the presence of HCII with a second order rate constant of 1.2 x 10(8) (mol/L)-1 min-1. These results indicated that DHG has two different inhibitory activities, one being an HCII-dependent thrombin inhibition and the other an ATIII- and HCII-independent inhibition of the coagulation cascade. The heparin cofactors- independent inhibitory activity of DHG was investigated in the activation of prothrombin by factor Xa and in the activation of factor X by tissue factor-factor VIIa complex or by factor IXa. DHG significantly inhibited the activation of factor X by factor IXa in the presence of factor VIIIa, but not in the absence of factor VIIIa. The interaction between DHG and factors IXa, VIIIa, and X was investigated with a DHG-cellulofine column, on which DHG had strong affinity for factors IXa and VIIIa. These findings show that the heparin cofactors- independent inhibition exhibited by DHG was caused by inhibition of the interaction of factor X with the intrinsic factor Xase complex, probably by binding to the factor IXa-factor VIIIa complex.