Thrombin Cleavage of Inter-α-inhibitor Heavy Chain 1 Regulates Leukocyte Binding to an Inflammatory Hyaluronan Matrix

J Biol Chem. 2016 Nov 18;291(47):24324-24334. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M116.755660. Epub 2016 Sep 27.


Dynamic alterations of the extracellular matrix in response to injury directly modulate inflammation and consequently the promotion and resolution of disease. During inflammation, hyaluronan (HA) is increased at sites of inflammation where it may be covalently modified with the heavy chains (HC) of inter-α-trypsin inhibitor. Deposition of this unique, pathological form of HA (HC-HA) leads to the formation of cable-like structures that promote adhesion of leukocytes. Naive mononuclear leukocytes bind specifically to inflammation-associated HA matrices but do not adhere to HA constitutively expressed under homeostatic conditions. In this study, we have directly investigated a role for the blood-coagulation protease thrombin in regulating the adhesion of monocytic cells to smooth muscle cells producing an inflammatory matrix. Our data demonstrate that the proteolytic activity of thrombin negatively regulates the adhesion of monocytes to an inflammatory HC-HA complex. This effect is independent of protease-activated receptor activation but requires proteolytic activity toward a novel substrate. Components of HC-HA complexes were predicted to contain conserved thrombin-susceptible cleavage sites based on sequence analysis, and heavy chain 1 (HC1) was confirmed to be a substrate of thrombin. Thrombin treatment is sufficient to cleave HC1 associated with either cell-surface HA or serum inter-α-trypsin inhibitor. Furthermore, thrombin treatment of the inflammatory matrix leads to dissolution of HC-HA cable structures and abolishes leukocyte adhesion. These data establish a novel mechanism whereby thrombin cleavage of HC1 regulates the adhesive properties of an inflammatory HA matrix.

Keywords: extracellular matrix; glycobiology; glycosaminoglycan; heavy-chain hyaluronan complex; hyaluronan; inflammation; inflammation-associated matrix; inter-alpha-inhibitor; thrombin.

MeSH terms

  • Alpha-Globulins / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / metabolism*
  • Leukocytes / cytology
  • Leukocytes / metabolism*
  • Thrombin / metabolism*


  • Alpha-Globulins
  • inter-alpha-inhibitor
  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Thrombin