Vitronectin endows plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 (PAI-1), the fast-acting inhibitor of both tissue-type plasminogen activator (t-PA) and urokinase-type plasminogen activator (u-PA), with additional thrombin inhibitory properties. In view of the apparent association between PAI-1 and vitronectin in the endothelial cell matrix (ECM), we analyzed the interaction between PAI-1 and thrombin in this environment. Upon incubating 125I-labeled alpha-thrombin with endothelial cell matrix (ECM), the protease formed SDS-stable complexes exclusively with PAI-1, with subsequent release of these complexes into the supernatant. Vitronectin was required as a cofactor for the association between PAI-1 and thrombin in ECM. Metabolic labeling of endothelial cell proteins, followed by incubation of ECM with t-PA, u-PA, or thrombin, indicated that all three proteases depleted PAI-1 from ECM by complex formation and proteolytic cleavage. Proteolytically inactive thrombin as well as anticoagulant thrombin, i.e., thrombin in complex with its endothelial cell surface receptor thrombomodulin, did not neutralize PAI-1, emphasizing that the procoagulant moiety of thrombin is required for a functional interaction with PAI-1. A physiological implication of our findings may be related to the mutual neutralization of both PAI-1 and thrombin, providing a new link between plasminogen activation and the coagulation system. Evidence is provided that in ECM, procoagulant thrombin may promote plasminogen activator activity by inactivating PAI-1.

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