Heparin promotes the inactivation of antithrombin by neutrophil elastase

Science  14 Aug 1987:
Vol. 237, Issue 4816, pp. 777-779
DOI: 10.1126/science.3649921


Heparin is an acceleratory cofactor for antithrombin, a circulating inhibitor of blood coagulation enzymes. The presence of heparin on blood vessel walls is believed to contribute to the nonthrombogenic properties of those surfaces. In apparent opposition to this function, heparin was found to greatly accelerate the in vitro inactivation of antithrombin by neutrophil elastase. Inactivation rates in solution were potentiated several hundredfold by specific heparin fractions with anticoagulant activity. Although the data suggest that a heparin-antithrombin complex is essential for the inactivation by elastase to occur, the enzyme itself interacts tightly with heparin. These results suggest a mechanism which, if operating in vivo, could lead to a localized neutralization of the anticoagulant function of heparin at the endothelial surface.