What is the role of APC in the pathophysiology of protein S deficiency?

Updated: Jan 03, 2021
  • Author: Mohammad Muhsin Chisti, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Perumal Thiagarajan, MD  more...
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Factor Va as noted above is cleaved by APC to an inactive form. However, in assisting protein S to inactivate FVIIIa, it is the inactive FV that is cleaved by APC. An important consequence of this dual procoagulant and anticoagulant property of factor V, is that the mutant factor V Leiden, which resists APC cleavage, cannot be switched off but also cannot function here at this step as an anticoagulant protein (see factor V Leiden gene mutation in Race). In addition to its cofactor role in the protein C system, protein S functions independently of protein C by acting as a cofactor to Tissue Factor Pathway Inhibitor (TFPI). TFPI inhibits the Tissue Factor/FVIIa complex thus inhibiting activation of factor X as well as Prothrombin further downstream. Similarly, Protein S has also been shown to directly inhibit factor Xa. [6, 7]

Heeb et al reported that protein S has APC-independent anticoagulant activity, termed PS-direct, that directly inhibits factor Xa/factor Va prothrombinase complex, a process made possible by the presence of zinc (Zn2+) content in protein S. The investigators found Zn2+ content positively correlated with PS-direct in prothrombinase and clotting assays, but the APC-cofactor activity of protein S was independent of Zn2+ content. In addition, protein S that contained Zn2+ bound factor Xa more efficiently than protein S without Zn2+, and, independent of Zn2+ content, protein S also efficiently bound tissue factor pathway inhibitor. [8]  The study also suggested that conformation differences at or near the interface of 2 laminin G-like domains near the protein S C terminus may indicate that Zn2+ is necessary for PS-direct and efficient factor Xa binding and could have a role in stabilizing protein S conformation. [8]


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