The structure and biological features of fibrinogen and fibrin

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001;936:11-30. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2001.tb03491.x.


Fibrinogen and fibrin play important, overlapping roles in blood clotting, fibrinolysis, cellular and matrix interactions, inflammation, wound healing, and neoplasia. These events are regulated to a large extent by fibrin formation itself and by complementary interactions between specific binding sites on fibrin(ogen) and extrinsic molecules including proenzymes, clotting factors, enzyme inhibitors, and cell receptors. Fibrinogen is comprised of two sets of three polypeptide chains termed A alpha, B beta, and gamma, that are joined by disulfide bridging within the N-terminal E domain. The molecules are elongated 45-nm structures consisting of two outer D domains, each connected to a central E domain by a coiled-coil segment. These domains contain constitutive binding sites that participate in fibrinogen conversion to fibrin, fibrin assembly, crosslinking, and platelet interactions (e.g., thrombin substrate, Da, Db, gamma XL, D:D, alpha C, gamma A chain platelet receptor) as well as sites that are available after fibrinopeptide cleavage (e.g., E domain low affinity non-substrate thrombin binding site); or that become exposed as a consequence of the polymerization process (e.g., tPA-dependent plasminogen activation). A constitutive plasma factor XIII binding site and a high affinity non-substrate thrombin binding site are located on variant gamma' chains that comprise a minor proportion of the gamma chain population. Initiation of fibrin assembly by thrombin-mediated cleavage of fibrinopeptide A from A alpha chains exposes two EA polymerization sites, and subsequent fibrinopeptide B cleavage exposes two EB polymerization sites that can also interact with platelets, fibroblasts, and endothelial cells. Fibrin generation leads to end-to-middle intermolecular Da to EA associations, resulting in linear double-stranded fibrils and equilaterally branched trimolecular fibril junctions. Side-to-side fibril convergence results in bilateral network branches and multistranded thick fiber cables. Concomitantly, factor XIII or thrombin-activated factor XIIIa introduce intermolecular covalent epsilon-(gamma glutamyl)lysine bonds into these polymers, first creating gamma dimers between properly aligned C-terminal gamma XL sites, which are positioned transversely between the two strands of each fibrin fibril. Later, crosslinks form mainly between complementary sites on alpha chains (forming alpha-polymers), and even more slowly among gamma dimers to create higher order crosslinked gamma trimers and tetramers, to complete the mature network structure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Biopolymers
  • Fibrin / chemistry*
  • Fibrin / metabolism*
  • Fibrinogen / chemistry*
  • Fibrinogen / metabolism*
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Humans
  • Integrins / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Thrombin / metabolism


  • Biopolymers
  • Integrins
  • Fibrin
  • Fibrinogen
  • Thrombin