Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) may be involved in the disturbance of the procoagulant-fibrinolytic balance in septicemia, leading to microvascular thrombosis. To assess the dynamics of the fibrinolytic response to TNF in humans, we performed a crossover saline-controlled study in six healthy men, investigating the effects of a bolus intravenous injection of recombinant human TNF (50 micrograms/m2) on the stimulation and inhibition of plasminogen activation as well as on plasmin activity and inhibition. TNF induced a brief fourfold increase in the overall plasma plasminogen activator (PA) activity peaking after 1 h (p less than 0.0001), which was associated with rises in the antigenic levels of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (p less than 0.0001) and tissue-type plasminogen activator (p less than 0.0001). Plasminogen activator inhibitor type I antigen remained unchanged in the first hour, but showed a rapid eightfold increase thereafter (p less than 0.0001), which coincided with the decrease in PA activity. Generation of plasmin activity in the first hour was signified by an 11-fold rise in D-dimer levels (p less than 0.0001); inhibition of plasmin was reflected by a 36-fold rise in plasmin-alpha 2 antiplasmin complexes (p less than 0.0001), as well as by a transient 16% decrease in alpha 2-antiplasmin activity (p less than 0.01). In conclusion, TNF induced an early activation of the fibrinolytic system becoming maximal in 1 h, with a rapid inhibition thereafter. Earlier observations in the same subjects showed sustained coagulation activation for 6-12 h. The observed disbalance between the procoagulant and fibrinolytic mechanisms after TNF injection confirms the in vivo relevance of the effects of TNF on vascular endothelium in vitro and may explain the tendency towards microvascular thrombosis in septicemia.

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