The protein C-protein S anticoagulant pathway is closely linked to the endothelium. In this paper the synthesis and release of the vitamin K-dependent coagulation factor protein S is demonstrated. Western blotting, after SDS PAGE of Triton X-100 extracts of bovine aortic endothelial cells grown in serum-free medium, demonstrated the presence of protein S. A single major band was observed at Mr approximately 75,000, closely migrating with protein S purified from plasma absent from cells treated with cycloheximide. Metabolic labeling of endothelial cells with [35S]methionine confirmed de novo synthesis of protein S. Using a radioimmunoassay, endothelium was found to release 180 fmol/10(5) cells per 24 h and contain 44 fmol/10(5) cells of protein S antigen. Protein S released from endothelium was functionally active and could promote activated protein C-mediated factor Va inactivation on the endothelial cell surface. Warfarin decreased secretion of protein S antigen by greater than 90% and increased intracellular accumulation by almost twofold. Morphological studies demonstrated intracellular protein S was in the Golgi complex, concentrated at the trans face, rough endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes, and in vesicles at the periphery. In contrast, protein S was not found in vascular fibroblasts or smooth muscle cells. A pool of intracellular protein S could be released rapidly by the calcium ionophore A23187 (5 microM). This effect was dependent on the presence of calcium in the culture medium and could be blocked by LaCl3, which suggests that cytosolic calcium flux may be responsible for protein S release. These results demonstrate that endothelial cells, but not the subendothelial cells of the vessel wall, can synthesize and release protein S, which indicates a new mechanism by which the inner lining of the vessel wall can contribute to the prevention of thrombotic events.

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