Endothelium and disordered fibrin turnover in the injured lung: newly recognized pathways

Crit Care Med. 2002 May;30(5 Suppl):S274-80. doi: 10.1097/00003246-200205001-00017.


Objectives: To review derangements of pathways of fibrin turnover that promote pathologic fibrin deposition in the acute respiratory distress syndrome and to review the contribution of the endothelium and parenchymal lung cells to the derangements. In addition, to review how these pathways can be exploited in specific clinical circumstances, including sepsis and acute lung injury. Lastly, to review newly recognized posttranscriptional and urokinase-dependent pathways by which the fibrinolytic system is regulated in the lung.

Data sources: Medical literature published in English from 1966 to present.

Data summary: Local abnormalities of fibrin turnover in the injured lung recapitulate the systemic changes observed in sepsis. In both circumstances, the procoagulant response is increased, whereas fibrinolytic activity is concurrently depressed. The increased procoagulant activity is related to tissue factor associated with factor VII/VIIa. Fibrinolytic activity in the vasculature is mainly attributable to tissue plasminogen activator, whereas extravascular fibrinolytic activity in the lung is mainly attributable to urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA). Depressed fibrinolytic activity is in large part attributable to plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. In sepsis, activated protein C is also deficient, potentiating the inflammatory response, coagulopathy, and depressed fibrinolysis. Recombinant human activated protein C (drotrecogin alfa [activated]) was successful as an intervention for sepsis in a recent phase 3 clinical trial (PROWESS). Recently, novel posttranscriptional pathways that regulate expression of uPA, its receptor (uPAR), and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 have been identified. The responsible mechanisms involve cis-trans interactions between newly recognized messenger RNA (mRNA) binding sequences and mRNA binding proteins. A 51 nucleotide mRNA binding sequence within the coding region of uPAR mRNA interacts with a novel 50-kDa mRNA binding protein to destabilize the message. Sequences within the 3' untranslated region of uPA or plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 mRNA interact with 30- and 60-kDa proteins, respectively, to regulate message stability. All of these pathways operate in lung epithelial cells, and endothelial cells regulate uPA expression through a similar pathway. In addition, uPA itself is capable of inducing expression of other components of the fibrinolytic system, including uPAR. This observation defines another feedback loop that could amplify local fibrinolysis and other uPA- or uPAR-mediated cellular responses, including cellular proteolysis, proliferation, and directed cellular migration.

Conclusions: Novel posttranscriptional pathways regulate expression of uPA, uPAR, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. uPA itself is capable of inducing other components of the fibrinolytic system. Some or all of these newly recognized pathways are operative in endothelial and parenchymal lung cells and may influence disordered fibrin turnover in the injured lung.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Fibrin / metabolism*
  • Fibrinolysis
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / metabolism*


  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1
  • Fibrin
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator