Thrombin structure and function: why thrombin is the primary target for antithrombotics

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Thrombin has both beneficial and harmful effects. In order of importance, at very low concentrations, α-thrombin firstly amplifies its own generation through the activation of factors V and VIII, which are the primary targets of antithrombotic agents. It secondly functions at the cellular level where, at low concentrations it activates platelets, and at higher concentrations, induces endothelial cell changes (e.g., shape changes, albumin transport release of plasminogen activators and other substances). It thirdly converts fibrinogen into clottable fibrin and becomes actively incorporated into the forming thrombus. In addition, it activates protein C, which in turn degrades factors V and VIII (and/or their activated forms) and causes the shutdown of thrombin generation. When compared to other serine proteinases of the blood coagulation and fibrinolytic systems, a-thrombin is unique in that it loses most of its proenzyme activation fragment and has developed multisite short-ranged bridge-binding interactions, which appear to explain thrombin specificity. To understand thrombin is to understand haemostasis.

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