The role of natural anticoagulants in the pathogenesis and management of systemic activation of coagulation and inflammation in critically ill patients

Semin Thromb Hemost. 2008 Jul;34(5):459-68. doi: 10.1055/s-0028-1092876. Epub 2008 Oct 27.


Critically ill patients often have systemic activation of both inflammatory systems and coagulation. Increasing evidence points to an extensive cross-talk between these two systems, whereby inflammation leads to activation of coagulation and coagulation considerably affects inflammatory activity. The intricate relationship between inflammation and coagulation may have major consequences for the pathogenesis of microvascular failure and subsequent multiple organ failure, as a result of severe infection and the associated systemic inflammatory response. Molecular pathways that contribute to inflammation-induced activation of coagulation have been precisely identified. Activation of the coagulation system and ensuing thrombin generation is dependent on an interleukin-6-induced expression of tissue factor on activated mononuclear cells and endothelial cells and is insufficiently counteracted by tissue factor pathway inhibitor. Simultaneously, endothelial-bound anticoagulant mechanisms, in particular the protein C system and the antithrombin system, are shut off by proinflammatory cytokines. Modulation of inflammatory activity by activation of coagulation also occurs by various mechanisms. Activated coagulation proteases, such as the tissue factor-factor VIIa complex, factor Xa, and thrombin, can bind to protease-activated receptors on various cells, and the ensuing intracellular signaling leads to increased production of proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Activated protein C can bind to the protein C receptor on endothelial cells and mononuclear cells, thereby affecting NF-kappaB nuclear translocation and subsequently influencing inflammatory gene expression and inhibition of tissue factor expression on mononuclear cells. Observations in experimental models of targeted disruption of the protein C gene and restoration of the downregulated protein C pathway by administration of recombinant activated protein C support this notion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anticoagulants / pharmacology
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Blood Coagulation Factors / metabolism*
  • Critical Illness
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / complications
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / metabolism*
  • Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications
  • Inflammation / metabolism*
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Lipoproteins / metabolism
  • NF-kappaB-Inducing Kinase
  • Protein C / metabolism
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Anticoagulants
  • Blood Coagulation Factors
  • Cytokines
  • Lipoproteins
  • Protein C
  • lipoprotein-associated coagulation inhibitor
  • Protein Serine-Threonine Kinases