Polyphosphate and omptins: novel bacterial procoagulant agents

J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Oct;13(10):4146-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1582-4934.2009.00884.x. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


Derangement of the blood clotting system contributes strongly to multiple organ failure in severe sepsis. In this review, we examine two microbial modulators of the clotting system: polyphosphates and omptins. Polyphosphates are linear polymers of inorganic phosphate that are abundant in the acidocalcisomes of prokaryotes and unicellular organisms as well as in the dense granules of human platelets. Polyphosphates modulate haemostasis by: (1) triggering clotting via the contact pathway; (2) accelerating the activation of coagulation factor V (a key cofactor in blood clotting) and (3) causing fibrin to form clots whose fibrils are thicker and more resistant to fibrinolysis. While polyphosphates are found in all prokaryotes, omptins have a more limited distribution among certain Gram-negative species. Omptins are outer membrane aspartyl proteases which were recently found to proteolytically inactivate tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI), the main inhibitor of the initiation phase of blood clotting. Omptin activity against TFPI requires lipopolysaccharide without O-antigen (rough LPS) such as is found on the surface of Yersinia pestis, the etiologic agent of plague. Interestingly, expression of Pla, the Yersinia pestis omptin, has a demonstrated virulence role in converting plasminogen into the fibrinolytic enzyme plasmin, which would seemingly antagonize any procoagulant effect of TFPI inactivation. However, since the rate of TFPI inactivation is much higher than the rate of plasminogen activation, we suggest that Pla may have a dual function in supporting the bubonic form of plague which is unique to Yersinia pestis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism*
  • Blood Coagulation / drug effects
  • Coagulants / metabolism*
  • Coagulants / pharmacology
  • Hemostasis / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Polyphosphates / metabolism*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Coagulants
  • Polyphosphates
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • omptin outer membrane protease