Extravascular thrombin activity is at the basis of many processes that cause atherosclerosis and in-stent restenosis. The glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) dermatan and heparan sulfate accelerate inactivation of localized thrombin by heparin cofactor II (HCII), but less than 0.1% of the GAGs in vascular tissue is high-affinity heparin that catalyzes thrombin inhibition by tight binding to antithrombin (AT). In agreement with clinical and in-vivo studies, we propose that HCII protects against atherosclerosis and restenosis. The AT mechanism has been analyzed in detail, but the accepted HCII mechanism does not explain its binding and kinetic behavior. Unlike AT, HCII has an intramolecularly sequestered N-terminal tail, thought to be released by GAG binding so it can engage thrombin (T) in the Michaelis complex. HCII?GAG binding is considered to trigger thrombin inactivation by HCII, rather than GAG bridging between thrombin and the serpin, which is at the basis of the AT mechanism. Small GAGs also accelerate thrombin inactivation by HCII but not by AT, which strengthened the assumption that GAG templates play no role in HCII reactions. However, binding of large and small GAGs to HCII is much weaker than to thrombin or AT, implicating a sparsely populated HCIIGAG complex at GAG concentrations that cause maximal inhibition. Inactivation rates parallel TGAG complex formation, and long GAGs show template kinetics, in disagreement with the accepted mechanism.
We aim to define if/how weak HCIIGAG binding can drive catalysis. In the free HCII and THCII Michaelis complex structures 70% of the tail is unresolved, and HCII?GAG structures are experimentally unattainable. We will identify tail-body contacts that keep circulating HCII in a low-reactive state, and define structural changes upon GAG binding by hydrogen- deuterium exchange (HDX) MS and circular dichroism, which allow conditions that are prohibitive in crystallography (Aim 1). We will identify for the first time where large GAGs bind across the T?HCII Michaelis complex, and identify potential binding pockets for small GAGs at the complex interface (Aim 2). We will quantitate the rate steps of GAG binding to HCII and thrombin, and elucidate the kinetic pathways of Michaelis and covalent complex formation by stopped-flow kinetics, equilibrium binding, thrombin inactivation, HCII mutagenesis and FRET (Aim 3). We will test the hypotheses that a) HCII intramolecular tail-body and C sheet- hinge interactions maintain circulating HCII in a low-reactive conformation, activatable to the inhibitory state; b) that THCII interface contacts with GAGs stabilize the Michaelis complex with an open-closed equilibrium reflecting exosite I binding of the HCII tail; and c) that the extent of thrombin translocation in the covalent complex may be specific for the HCII-thrombin pair. The expected outcomes will clarify the mechanism of GAG catalysis, and characterize the covalent complex conformation for which no structure is available. The long- term goal is to apply mechanistic information to designing therapies based on HCII and THCII-specific GAGs. The findings will be significant for developing novel management of atherosclerosis and restenosis.
Heparin cofactor II (HCII), a naturally occurring thrombin inhibitor in plasma, delays atherosclerosis and restenosis after stent implantation, but its mechanism of action is still not well defined and poses many unsolved controversies, which confounds development of potential anti-atherosclerotic therapies. The antithrombotic drugs, heparin and dermatan sulfate, accelerate the inhibitory effect of HCII, but these compounds bind HCII very weakly, which is inconsistent with the accepted paradigm of tight heparin binding to the inhibitor, a prerequisite for the accepted mechanism. Efforts of designing a more effective HCIIheparin complex as a potential anti-atherosclerotic agent were not successful, and we will examine alternative mechanisms that reconcile weak binding of long and short heparins and dermatans to HCII with the strong catalytic properties of these compounds.
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