Cl- regulates the structure of the fibrin clot

Biophys J. 1998 Oct;75(4):1973-9. doi: 10.1016/S0006-3495(98)77638-6.


The differences between coarse and fine fibrin clots first reported by Ferry have been interpreted in terms of nonspecific ionic strength effects for nearly 50 years and have fostered the notion that fibrin polymerization is largely controlled by electrostatic forces. Here we report spectroscopic and electron microscopy studies carried out in the presence of different salts that demonstrate that this long-held interpretation needs to be modified. In fact, the differences are due entirely to the specific binding of Cl- to fibrin fibers and not to generic ionic strength or electrostatic effects. Binding of Cl- opposes the lateral aggregation of protofibrils and results in thinner fibers that are also more curved than those grown in the presence of inert anions such as F-. The effect of Cl- is pH dependent and increases at pH > 8.0, whereas fibers grown in the presence of F- remain thick over the entire pH range from 6.5 to 9.0. From the pH dependence of the Cl- effect it is suggested that the anion exerts its role by increasing the pKa of a basic group ionizing around pH 9.2. The important role of Cl- in structuring the fibrin clot also clarifies the role played by the release of fibrinopeptide B, which leads to slightly thicker fibers in the presence of Cl- but actually reduces the size of the fibers in the presence of F-. This effect becomes more evident at high, close to physiological concentrations of fibrinogen. We conclude that Cl- is a basic physiological modulator of fibrin polymerization and acts to prevent the growth of thicker, stiffer, and straighter fibers by increasing the pKa of a basic group. This discovery opens new possibilities for the design of molecules that can specifically modify the clot structure by targeting the structural domains responsible for Cl- binding to fibrin.

MeSH terms

  • Binding Sites
  • Chlorides / metabolism*
  • Fibrin / chemistry*
  • Fibrin / ultrastructure*
  • Fibrinogen / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Nephelometry and Turbidimetry
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Sodium Fluoride / pharmacology


  • Chlorides
  • Sodium Fluoride
  • Fibrin
  • Fibrinogen