Background: Severe injury predisposes patients to trauma-induced coagulopathy, which may be subdivided by the state of fibrinolysis. Systemic hyperfibrinolysis (HF) occurs in approximately 25% of these patients with mortality as high as 70%. Severe injury also causes the release of numerous intracellular proteins, which may affect coagulation, one of which is hemoglobin, and hemoglobin substitutes induce HF in vitro. We hypothesize that the α-globin chain of hemoglobin potentiates HF in vitro by augmenting plasmin activity.
Methods: Proteomic analysis was completed on a pilot study of 30 injured patients before blood component resuscitation, stratified by their state of fibrinolysis, plus 10 healthy controls. Different concentrations of intact hemoglobin A, the α- and β-globin chains, or normal saline (controls) were added to whole blood, and tissue plasminogen activator (tPA)-challenged thrombelastography was used to assess the degree of fibrinolysis. Interactions with plasminogen (PLG) were evaluated using surface plasmon resonance. Tissue plasminogen activator-induced plasmin activity was evaluated in the presence of the α-globin chain.
Results: Only the α- and β-globin chains increased in HF patients (p < 0.01). The α-globin chain but not hemoglobin A or the β-globin chain decreased the reaction time and significantly increased lysis time 30 on citrated native thrombelastographies (p < 0.05). The PLG and α-globin chain had interaction kinetics similar to tPA:PLG, and the α-globin chain increased tPA-induced plasmin activity.
Conclusions: The α-globin chain caused HF in vitro by binding to PLG and augmenting plasmin activity and may represent a circulating "moonlighting" mediator released by the tissue damage and hemorrhagic shock inherent to severe injury.
Level of evidence: Prognostic, level III.
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