Tissue factor (TF) mRNA expression was measured by in situ hybridization in the endothelium of the intact human umbilical vein after infection with Rickettsia rickettsii. At 4 hours, R rickettsii organisms were clearly visible within approximately 70% of endothelial cells by immunocytochemical staining. Quantitation of TF mRNA expression revealed that the level within endothelial cells of the infected vein was significantly greater (3.7-fold, P < .0001) than that detected in uninfected endothelial cells. Serial sections of the umbilical cord vein were processed for in situ hybridization, and immunocytochemical staining and showed TF expression in those endothelial cells that contained R rickettsii organisms. Immunocytochemical staining for TF antigen at 6 hours was negative, but TF was clearly demonstrated within macrophages and fibroblasts of both control and infected umbilical cords. These studies demonstrate that the vascular endothelial cell, ex vivo, can be directly induced to express TF mRNA. This observation has not heretofore been clearly demonstrated except for in cultured endothelial cells. Since R rickettsii infection induces thrombotic vascular occlusions in patients with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the results imply a potential role for endothelial cell TF in the pathogenesis of thrombotic disease.

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