Coagulation, fibrinolysis, and fibrin deposition in acute lung injury

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ObjectivesTo review: a) the role of extravascular fibrin deposition in the pathogenesis of acute lung injury; b) the abnormalities in the coagulation and fibrinolysis pathways that promote fibrin deposition in the acutely injured lung; and c) the pathways that contribute to the regulation of the fibrinolytic system via the lung epithelium, including newly recognized posttranscriptional and urokinase-dependent pathways. Another objective was to determine how novel anticoagulant or fibrinolytic strategies may be used to protect against acute inflammation or accelerated fibrosis in acute lung injury.Data SourcesPublished medical literature.Data SummaryAlveolar fibrin deposition is characteristic of diverse forms of acute lung injury. Intravascular thrombosis or disseminated intravascular coagulation can also occur in the acutely injured lung. Extravascular fibrin deposition promotes lung dysfunction and the acute inflammatory response. In addition, transitional fibrin in the alveolar compartment undergoes remodeling leading to accelerated pulmonary fibrosis similar to the events associated with wound healing, or desmoplasia associated with solid neoplasms. In acute lung injury, alveolar fibrin deposition is potentiated by consistent changes in endogenous coagulation and fibrinolytic pathways. Procoagulant activity is increased in conjunction with depression of fibrinolytic activity in the alveolar compartment. Initiation of the procoagulant response occurs as a result of local overexpression of tissue factor associated with factor VII. Depression of fibrinolytic activity occurs as a result of inhibition of urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) by plasminogen activators, or series inhibition of plasmin by antiplasmins. Locally increased amplification of plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) is largely responsible for this fibrinolytic defect. Newly described pathways by which lung epithelial cells regulate expression of uPA, its receptor uPAR, and PAI-1 at the posttranscriptional level have been identified. These pathways operate by cis-trans interactions between mRNA binding proteins; regulatory sequences within these mRNAs control their stability. The regulatory mechanisms seem to involve multiple protein–mRNA interactions, and the phosphorylation state of the proteins appears to determine whether complex formation of, or dissociation from, the regulatory sequences occurs. uPA is capable of inducing its own expression in lung epithelial cells as well as that of uPAR and PAI-1—the effects involve posttranscriptional regulatory components. These and related observations have led to the implementation of anticoagulant or fibrinolytic strategies to protect the lung against acute lung injury. The success of new fibrinolytic strategies to block pleural loculation suggests that a similar approach might be used to prevent accelerated pulmonary fibrosis, which can occur in association with many forms of acute lung injury.ConclusionsDisordered coagulation and fibrinolysis promote extravascular fibrin deposition in acute lung injury. It is this deposition that characterizes acute lung injury and repair. Expression of uPA, uPAR, and PAI-1 by the lung epithelium, as well as the ability of uPA to induce other components of the fibrinolytic system, involves posttranscriptional regulation. These pathways may contribute to disordered fibrin turnover in the injured lung. The success of anticoagulant or fibrinolytic strategies designed to reverse the abnormalities of local fibrin turnover in acute lung injury supports the inference that abnormalities of coagulation, fibrinolysis, and fibrin deposition have a critical role in the pathogenesis of acute lung injury.

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