The contact activation and kallikrein/kinin systems: pathophysiologic and physiologic activities

J Thromb Haemost. 2016 Jan;14(1):28-39. doi: 10.1111/jth.13194. Epub 2016 Jan 11.


The contact activation system (CAS) and kallikrein/kinin system (KKS) are older recognized biochemical pathways that include several proteins that skirt the fringes of the blood coagulation, fibrinolytic, complement and renin-angiotensin fields. These proteins initially were proposed as part of the hemostatic pathways because their deficiencies are associated with prolonged clinical assays. However, the absence of bleeding states with deficiencies of factor XII (FXII), prekallikrein (PK) and high-molecular-weight kininogen indicates that the CAS and KKS do not contribute to hemostasis. Since the discovery of the Hageman factor 60 years ago much has been learned about the biochemistry, cell biology and animal physiology of these proteins. The CAS is a pathophysiologic surface defense mechanism against foreign proteins, organisms and artificial materials. The KKS is an inflammatory response mechanism. Targeting their activation through FXIIa or plasma kallikrein inhibition when blood interacts with the artificial surfaces of modern interventional medicine or in acute attacks of hereditary angioedema restores vascular homeostasis. FXII/FXIIa and products that arise with PK deficiency also offer novel ways to reduce arterial and venous thrombosis without an effect on hemostasis. In summary, there is revived interest in the CAS and KKS due to better understanding of their activities. The new appreciation of these systems will lead to several new therapies for a variety of medical disorders.

Keywords: bradykinin; contact activation; factor XII; kallikrein/kinin system; kininogen; prekallikrein.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / immunology*
  • Bradykinin / metabolism
  • Factor XII / metabolism
  • Factor XIIa / metabolism
  • Hemostasis
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Kallikrein-Kinin System*
  • Kininogen, High-Molecular-Weight / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Plasma Kallikrein / metabolism
  • Prekallikrein / deficiency*
  • Prekallikrein / immunology
  • Prekallikrein / metabolism
  • Receptors, Bradykinin / metabolism
  • Thrombosis / physiopathology


  • Kininogen, High-Molecular-Weight
  • Receptors, Bradykinin
  • Factor XII
  • Prekallikrein
  • Plasma Kallikrein
  • Factor XIIa
  • Bradykinin

Supplementary concepts

  • Prekallikrein Deficiency