There is compelling experimental evidence that tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) exerts important role(s) as a natural anticoagulant. Iinmunodepletion of TFPI lowers the treshold by which tissue factor (TF) can induce disseminated intravascular coagulation. Conversely, infusion of recombinant TFPI protects against thrombosis and disseminated intravascular coagulation in numerous experimental models. Since TFPI mutants associated with thrombosis have not yet been identified, a definite role of TFPI in coagulation is yet to be assigned. Current research on TFPI is mainly focused on the cell biology of TFPI, on the contribution of TFPI to the anticoagulant action of heparins, and on the role of lipoprotein-associated TFPI. TFPI is produced constitutively in endothelial cells, and is to a great extent bound to its surface. The binding molecule(s) have not yet been characterized, but TFPI is rapidly released by heparin and other negatively charged ions. In other cell lines degradation of TFPI is mediated by the low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein, which may be important for its clearance. In plasma, TFPI contributes strongly to the postheparin anticoagulant effect seen in dilute prothrombin time assays. The effect is probably mediated by redistribution of TFPI. Moreover, in the presence of heparin, antithrombin and TFPI cooperate to inhibit activation of coagulation. Antithrombin abrogates activation of factor VII bound to TF, whereas TFPI inhibits factor VIIa/TF complexes formed. The role of lipoprotein associated TFPI is still essentially unknown, but may play an important role in atherosclerosis.

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