Proteinases converting the zymogen protein C (PC) of vertebrates into activated PC have been detected in several snake venoms. Most PC activators have been purified from venom of snake species belonging to the genera of the Agkistrodon complex. Unlike the physiological, thrombin-catalyzed PC activation reaction which requires thrombomodulin as a cofactor, most snake venom activators directly convert the zymogen PC into the catalytically active form which can easily be determined by means of coagulation or chromogenic substrate techniques. Due to this feature, the fast-acting PC activator Protac from Agkistrodon contortrix contortrix (southern copperhead snake) venom has found a broad application in diagnostic practice for the determination of disorders in the PC pathway. Recently, screening assays for the PC pathway have been introduced, based on the observation that the PC pathway is probably the most important physiological barrier against thrombosis.
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