Coagulation (also known as clotting) is the process by which blood changes from a liquid to a gel, forming a blood clot. It potentially results in hemostasis, the cessation of blood loss from a damaged vessel, followed by repair. The mechanism of coagulation involves activation, adhesion, and aggregation of platelets along with deposition and maturation of fibrin. Disorders of coagulation are disease states which can result in bleeding ( hemorrhage or bruising) or obstructive clotting ( thrombosis). Coagulation is highly conserved throughout biology; in all mammals, coagulation involves both a cellular (platelet) and a protein (coagulation factor) component. The system in humans has been the most extensively researched and is the best understood. Coagulation begins almost instantly after an injury to the blood vessel has damaged the endothelium lining the vessel. Leaking of blood through the endothelium initiates two processes: changes in platelets, and the exposure of subendothelial tissue factor to plasma Factor VII, which ultimately leads to fibrin formation. Platelets immediately form a plug at the site of injury; this is called primary hemostasis. Secondary hemostasis occurs simultaneously: Additional coagulation factors or clotting factors beyond Factor VII ( listed below) respond in a complex cascade to form fibrin strands, which strengthen the platelet plug.
Platelet activationWhen the endothelium is damaged, the normally isolated, underlying collagen is exposed to circulating platelets, which bind directly to collagen with collagen-specific glycoprotein Ia/IIa surface receptors. This adhesion is strengthened further by von Willebrand factor (vWF), which is released from the endothelium and from platelets; vWF forms additional links between the platelets' glycoprotein Ib/IX/V and the collagen fibrils. This localization of platelets to the extracellular matrix promotes collagen interaction with platelet glycoprotein VI. Binding of collagen to glycoprotein VI triggers a signaling cascade that results in activation of platelet integrins. Activated integrins mediate tight binding of platelets to the extracellular matrix. This process adheres platelets to the site of injury. Activated platelets will release the contents of stored granules into the blood plasma. The granules include ADP, serotonin, platelet-activating factor (PAF), vWF, platelet factor 4, and thromboxane A2 (TXA2), which, in turn, activate additional platelets. The granules' contents activate a Gq-linked protein receptor cascade, resulting in increased calcium concentration in the platelets' cytosol. The calcium activates protein kinase C, which, in turn, activates phospholipase A2 (PLA2). PLA2 then modifies the integrin membrane glycoprotein IIb/IIIa, increasing its affinity to bind fibrinogen. The activated platelets change shape from spherical to stellate, and the fibrinogen cross-links with glycoprotein IIb/IIIa aid in aggregation of adjacent platelets (completing primary hemostasis).
Coagulation cascadeThe coagulation cascade of secondary hemostasis has two initial pathways which lead to fibrin formation. These are the contact activation pathway (also known as the intrinsic pathway), and the tissue factor pathway (also known as the extrinsic pathway), which both lead to the same fundamental reactions that produce fibrin. It was previously thought that the two pathways of coagulation cascade were of equal importance, but it is now known that the primary pathway for the initiation of blood coagulation is the tissue factor (extrinsic) pathway. The pathways are a series of reactions, in which a zymogen (inactive enzyme precursor) of a serine protease and its glycoprotein co-factor are activated to become active components that then catalyze the next reaction in the cascade, ultimately resulting in cross-linked fibrin. Coagulation factors are generally indicated by Roman numerals, with a lowercase a appended to indicate an active form. The coagulation factors are generally serine proteases ( enzymes), which act by cleaving downstream proteins. The exceptions are FIII, FV, FVIII, FXIII.http://www.clotbase.bicnirrh.res.in/flow_ln.php FIII, FV and FVIII are glycoproteins, and Factor XIII is a transglutaminase. The coagulation factors circulate as inactive zymogens. The coagulation cascade is therefore classically divided into three pathways. The tissue factor and contact activation pathways both activate the "final common pathway" of factor X, thrombin and fibrin.
Tissue factor pathway (extrinsic)The main role of the tissue factor pathway is to generate a "thrombin burst", a process by which thrombin, the most important constituent of the coagulation cascade in terms of its feedback activation roles, is released very rapidly. FVIIa circulates in a higher amount than any other activated coagulation factor. The process includes the following steps:
- Following damage to the blood vessel, FVII leaves the circulation and comes into contact with tissue factor (TF) expressed on tissue-factor-bearing cells ( stromal fibroblasts and leukocytes), forming an activated complex (TF-FVIIa).
- TF-FVIIa activates FIX and FX.
- FVII is itself activated by thrombin, FXIa, FXII and FXa.
- The activation of FX (to form FXa) by TF-FVIIa is almost immediately inhibited by tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI).
- FXa and its co-factor FVa form the prothrombinase complex, which activates prothrombin to thrombin.
- Thrombin then activates other components of the coagulation cascade, including FV and FVIII (which forms a complex with FIX), and activates and releases FVIII from being bound to vWF.
- FVIIIa is the co-factor of FIXa, and together they form the " tenase" complex, which activates FX; and so the cycle continues. ("Tenase" is a contraction of "ten" and the suffix "-ase" used for enzymes.)
Contact activation pathway (intrinsic)The contact activation pathway begins with formation of the primary complex on collagen by high-molecular-weight kininogen (HMWK), prekallikrein, and FXII (Hageman factor). Prekallikrein is converted to kallikrein and FXII becomes FXIIa. FXIIa converts FXI into FXIa. Factor XIa activates FIX, which with its co-factor FVIIIa form the tenase complex, which activates FX to FXa. The minor role that the contact activation pathway has in initiating clot formation can be illustrated by the fact that patients with severe deficiencies of FXII, HMWK, and prekallikrein do not have a bleeding disorder. Instead, contact activation system seems to be more involved in inflammation, and innate immunity. Despite this, interference with the pathway may confer protection against thrombosis without a significant bleeding risk.
Final common pathwayThe division of coagulation in two pathways is mainly artificial, it originates from laboratory tests in which clotting times were measured after the clotting was initiated by glass (intrinsic pathway) or by thromboplastin (a mix of tissue factor and phospholipids). In fact thrombin is present from the very beginning, already when platelets are making the plug. Thrombin has a large array of functions, not only the conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin, the building block of a hemostatic plug. In addition, it is the most important platelet activator and on top of that it activates Factors VIII and V and their inhibitor protein C (in the presence of thrombomodulin), and it activates Factor XIII, which forms covalent bonds that crosslink the fibrin polymers that form from activated monomers. Following activation by the contact factor or tissue factor pathways, the coagulation cascade is maintained in a prothrombotic state by the continued activation of FVIII and FIX to form the tenase complex, until it is down-regulated by the anticoagulant pathways.
CofactorsVarious substances are required for the proper functioning of the coagulation cascade:
Calcium and phospholipidCalcium and phospholipid (a platelet membrane constituent) are required for the tenase and prothrombinase complexes to function. Calcium mediates the binding of the complexes via the terminal gamma-carboxy residues on FXa and FIXa to the phospholipid surfaces expressed by platelets, as well as procoagulant microparticles or microvesicles shed from them. Calcium is also required at other points in the coagulation cascade. Vitamin K is an essential factor to a hepatic gamma-glutamyl carboxylase that adds a carboxyl group to glutamic acid residues on factors II, VII, IX and X, as well as Protein S, Protein C and Protein Z. In adding the gamma-carboxyl group to glutamate residues on the immature clotting factors Vitamin K is itself oxidized. Another enzyme, Vitamin K epoxide reductase, (VKORC) reduces vitamin K back to its active form. Vitamin K epoxide reductase is pharmacologically important as a target of anticoagulant drugs warfarin and related coumarins such as acenocoumarol, phenprocoumon, and dicumarol. These drugs create a deficiency of reduced vitamin K by blocking VKORC, thereby inhibiting maturation of clotting factors. Vitamin K deficiency from other causes (e.g., in malabsorption) or impaired vitamin K metabolism in disease (e.g., in liver failure) lead to the formation of PIVKAs (proteins formed in vitamin K absence) which are partially or totally non-gamma carboxylated, affecting the coagulation factors' ability to bind to phospholipid.
RegulatorsFive mechanisms keep platelet activation and the coagulation cascade in check. Abnormalities can lead to an increased tendency toward thrombosis: Protein C is a major physiological anticoagulant. It is a vitamin K-dependent serine protease enzyme that is activated by thrombin into activated protein C (APC). Protein C is activated in a sequence that starts with Protein C and thrombin binding to a cell surface protein thrombomodulin. Thrombomodulin binds these proteins in such a way that it activates Protein C. The activated form, along with protein S and a phospholipid as cofactors, degrades FVa and FVIIIa. Quantitative or qualitative deficiency of either (protein C or protein S) may lead to thrombophilia (a tendency to develop thrombosis). Impaired action of Protein C (activated Protein C resistance), for example by having the "Leiden" variant of Factor V or high levels of FVIII also may lead to a thrombotic tendency. Antithrombin is a serine protease inhibitor ( serpin) that degrades the serine proteases: thrombin, FIXa, FXa, FXIa, and FXIIa. It is constantly active, but its adhesion to these factors is increased by the presence of heparan sulfate (a glycosaminoglycan) or the administration of heparins (different heparinoids increase affinity to FXa, thrombin, or both). Quantitative or qualitative deficiency of antithrombin (inborn or acquired, e.g., in proteinuria) leads to thrombophilia. Tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI) limits the action of tissue factor (TF). It also inhibits excessive TF-mediated activation of FVII and FX. Plasmin is generated by proteolytic cleavage of plasminogen, a plasma protein synthesized in the liver. This cleavage is catalyzed by tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), which is synthesized and secreted by endothelium. Plasmin proteolytically cleaves fibrin into fibrin degradation products that inhibit excessive fibrin formation. Prostacyclin (PGI2) is released by endothelium and activates platelet Gs protein-linked receptors. This, in turn, activates adenylyl cyclase, which synthesizes cAMP. cAMP inhibits platelet activation by decreasing cytosolic levels of calcium and, by doing so, inhibits the release of granules that would lead to activation of additional platelets and the coagulation cascade.
FibrinolysisEventually, blood clots are reorganised and resorbed by a process termed fibrinolysis. The main enzyme responsible for this process ( plasmin) is regulated by various activators and inhibitors.
Role in immune systemThe coagulation system overlaps with the immune system. Coagulation can physically trap invading microbes in blood clots. Also, some products of the coagulation system can contribute to the innate immune system by their ability to increase vascular permeability and act as chemotactic agents for phagocytic cells. In addition, some of the products of the coagulation system are directly antimicrobial. For example, beta-lysine, an amino acid produced by platelets during coagulation, can cause lysis of many Gram-positive bacteria by acting as a cationic detergent. Immunology – Chapter One: Innate ot non-specific immunity Gene Mayer, Ph.D. Immunology Section of Microbiology and Immunology On-line. University of South Carolina Many acute-phase proteins of inflammation are involved in the coagulation system. In addition, pathogenic bacteria may secrete agents that alter the coagulation system, e.g. coagulase and streptokinase.
AssessmentNumerous tests are used to assess the function of the coagulation system:
- Common: aPTT, PT (also used to determine INR), fibrinogen testing (often by the Clauss method), platelet count, platelet function testing (often by PFA-100), thrombodynamics test.
- Other: TCT, bleeding time, mixing test (whether an abnormality corrects if the patient's plasma is mixed with normal plasma), coagulation factor assays, antiphospholipid antibodies, D-dimer, genetic tests (e.g. factor V Leiden, prothrombin mutation G20210A), dilute Russell's viper venom time (dRVVT), miscellaneous platelet function tests, thromboelastography (TEG or Sonoclot), euglobulin lysis time (ELT).