What is the role of activation in the pathophysiology of factor IX deficiency (hemophilia B)?

Updated: Mar 09, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Srikanth Nagalla, MD, MS, FACP  more...
  • Print

The gamma-carboxylated region of FIX is essential for calcium binding and is the site at which vitamin K–dependent coagulation proteins bind to cell surface phospholipids and efficient coagulation reactions take place. Ca2+ binding to the Gla region results in a conformational change leading to exposure of previously buried hydrophobic residues in the FIX molecule, which then can be inserted into the lipid bilayer.

Tissue factor (TF) is a glycosylated membrane protein present in cells surrounding blood vessels and in many organs. On the other hand, endothelial cells, tissue macrophages, and smooth muscle cells express TF only when stimulated by serine proteases, such as thrombin, and by inflammatory cytokines. In vivo, under physiologic conditions, only a trace amount of FVII is present in the activated form (activated factor VII [FVIIa] of approximately 1%). When TF becomes available, it complexes with FVII or FVIIa, and current concepts support the view that activation of FIX to FIXa is more rapid with the TF-FVII complex than with activated factor XI (FXIa). [7] The activation peptide for FIX is detectable in the plasma of control subjects. [8] The image below diagrams the activation of FIX.

Activation of factor IX and function of the intrin Activation of factor IX and function of the intrinsic tenase complex. Activation of factor IX is followed by formation of the intrinsic tenase complex, which activates factor X to activated factor X, leading to a second and larger burst of thrombin production during activation of hemostasis.

Following activation, the single-chain FIX becomes a 2-chain molecule, in which the 2 chains are linked by a disulfide bond attaching the enzyme to the Gla domain. Activated factor VIII (FVIIIa) is the specific cofactor for the full expression of FIXa activity. Platelets not only provide the lipid surface on which solid-phase reactions occur, but they also possess a binding site for FIXa that promotes complex formation with FVIIIa and Ca2+. The complex of FIXa, FVIIIa, Ca2+, and activated platelet (phospholipid surface) reaches its maximum potential to activate FX to activated factor X (FXa). This activator complex, which contains FIXa, is termed the intrinsic tenase complex in contradistinction to the FVIIa-TF (extrinsic tenase) or FXa, activated factor V (FVa), Ca2+, and phospholipid (prothrombinase) complexes; all ultimately lead to thrombin generation.

In vivo, the active FVIIa-TF complex is responsible for the initial activation of FX to FXa, leading first to the generation of small amounts of thrombin. When the FIXa generated by the FVIIa-TF complex is part of the intrinsic tenase complex, it activates additional FX to FXa and leads to the second and explosive burst of thrombin generation with subsequent clot formation.

Many feedback loops exist in the coagulation pathway, and some evidence suggests that FIXa can activate FVII and FVIII in addition to FX. Support for the important role of FIX in producing FVIIa, essential for normal hemostasis in vivo, was provided by a sensitive highly specific FVIIa assay, which showed that healthy individuals had basal FVIIa levels of 4.34 ng/mL. Patients with severe FIX deficiency were found to have markedly reduced FVIIa levels of 0.33 ng/mL, whereas individuals with severe FVIII deficiency had FVIIa levels of 2.69 ng/mL, values higher than those seen in patients with severe hemophilia B.

Antithrombin is the most important physiologic inhibitor of FIXa. Clinically, hemophilias A and B are indistinguishable. Variability in bleeding manifestations in patients with similar reductions in FVIII, FIX, or factor XI (FXI) is a well-known fact to clinicians. Modulation of the hemorrhagic disorder induced by deficiencies of intrinsic coagulation factors by co-inheritance of thrombophilic mutations is another well-recognized determinant of the extent of disruption of hemostasis in patients with a bleeding diathesis.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!