Exploitation of plasmin(ogen) by bacterial pathogens of veterinary significance

Vet Microbiol. 2015 Jul 9;178(1-2):1-13. doi: 10.1016/j.vetmic.2015.04.008. Epub 2015 Apr 17.


The plasminogen (Plg) system plays an important homeostatic role in the degradation of fibrin clots, extracellular matrices and tissue barriers important for cellular migration, as well as the promotion of neurotransmitter release. Plg circulates in plasma at physiologically high concentrations (150-200μg ml(-1)) as an inactive proenzyme. Proteins enriched in lysine and other positively charged residues (histidine and arginine) as well as glycosaminoglycans and gangliosides bind Plg. The binding interaction initiates a structural adjustment to the bound Plg that facilitates cleavage by proteases (plasminogen activators tPA and uPA) that activate Plg to the active serine protease plasmin. Both pathogenic and commensal bacteria capture Plg onto their cell surface and promote its conversion to plasmin. Many microbial Plg-binding proteins have been described underpinning the importance this process plays in how bacteria interact with their hosts. Bacteria exploit the proteolytic capabilities of plasmin by (i) targeting the mammalian fibrinolytic system and degrading fibrin clots, (ii) remodeling the extracellular matrix and generating bioactive cleavage fragments of the ECM that influence signaling pathways, (iii) activating matrix metalloproteinases that assist in the destruction of tissue barriers and promote microbial metastasis and (iv) destroying immune effector molecules. There has been little focus on the exploitation of the fibrinolytic system by veterinary pathogens. Here we describe several pathogens of veterinary significance that possess adhesins that bind plasmin(ogen) onto their cell surface and promote its activation to plasmin. Cumulative data suggests that these attributes provide pathogenic and commensal bacteria with a means to colonize and persist within the host environment.

Keywords: Complement; Invasion; Moonlighting; Plasminogen; Zoonosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adhesins, Bacterial / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Enzyme Precursors / metabolism*
  • Fibrinolysin / metabolism*
  • Fibrinolysis / physiology*
  • Plasminogen / metabolism*


  • Adhesins, Bacterial
  • Enzyme Precursors
  • Plasminogen
  • Fibrinolysin