The N-terminal acidic domain of heparin cofactor II mediates the inhibition of alpha-thrombin in the presence of glycosaminoglycans

J Biol Chem. 1991 Oct 25;266(30):20223-31.


Heparin cofactor II (HCII) is a glycoprotein in human plasma that inhibits thrombin and chymotrypsin. Inhibition occurs when the protease attacks the reactive site peptide bond in HCII (Leu444-Ser445) and becomes trapped as a covalent 1:1 complex. Dermatan sulfate and heparin increase the rate of inhibition of thrombin, but not of chymotrypsin, greater than 1000-fold. The N-terminal portion of HCII contains two acidic repeats (Glu56-Asp-Asp-Asp-Tyr-Leu-Asp and Glu69-Asp-Asp-Asp-Tyr-Ile-Asp) that may bind to anion-binding exosite I of thrombin to facilitate covalent complex formation. To examine the importance of the acidic domain, we have constructed a series of 5' deletions in the HCII cDNA and expressed the recombinant HCII (rHCII) in Escherichia coli. Apparent second-order rate constants (k2) for inhibition of alpha-thrombin and chymotrypsin by each variant were determined. Deletion of amino acid residues 1-74 had no effect on the rate of inhibition of alpha-thrombin or chymotrypsin in the absence of a glycosaminoglycan. Similarly, the rate of inhibition of alpha-thrombin in the presence of a glycosaminoglycan was unaffected by deletion of residues 1-52. However, deletion of residues 1-67 (first acidic repeat) or 1-74 (first and second acidic repeats) greatly decreased the rate of inhibition of alpha-thrombin in the presence of heparin, dermatan sulfate, or a dermatan sulfate hexasaccharide that comprises the minimum high-affinity binding site for HCII. Deletion of one or both of the acidic repeats increased the apparent affinity of rHCII for heparin-Sepharose, suggesting that the acidic domain may interact with the glycosaminoglycan-binding site of native rHCII. The stimulatory effect of glycosaminoglycans on native rHCII was decreased by a C-terminal hirudin peptide which binds to anion-binding exosite I of alpha-thrombin. Furthermore, the ability of native rHCII to inhibit gamma-thrombin, which lacks the binding site for hirudin, was stimulated weakly by glycosaminoglycans. These results support a model in which the stimulatory effect of glycosaminoglycans on the inhibition of alpha-thrombin is mediated, in part, by the N-terminal acidic domain of HCII.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Binding Sites
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cattle
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Chymotrypsin / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Glycosaminoglycans / metabolism*
  • Heparin Cofactor II / genetics*
  • Heparin Cofactor II / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Kinetics
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Protease Inhibitors / metabolism
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Thrombin / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Glycosaminoglycans
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Heparin Cofactor II
  • Chymotrypsin
  • Thrombin