The interaction of ancrod with human platelets
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Ancrod, a serine protease purified from the venom of Agkistrodon rhodostoma, has been used as a therapeutic anticoagulant for a number of indications, including replacement of heparin in patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia. Ancrod has similar fibrinolytic activity to thrombin, but ancrod specifically cleaves only the alpha chain of fibrinogen, producing the characteristic fibrinopeptides A, AP and AY. Because ancrod has been used in patients with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia, it is important to ensure that ancrod does not directly affect the platelets and potentially increase the hemostatic effect. The effect of ancrod on platelets has not been well established, and there is not agreement in published studies. Additionally, some of the studies are over 15 years old and pre-date sensitive assays such as glycoprotein analysis. For these reasons, we investigated the interaction of ancrod with human platelets using direct and indirect, functional and biochemical techniques. Incubation of platelets with ancrod alone did not induce platelet aggregation or the release of dense-granule contents. Pre-incubation of platelets with ancrod did not augment or inhibit the maximal aggregation achieved with thrombin, nor did it affect the amount of serotonin release from dense granules caused by activation by thrombin. Studies of ancrod-treated platelets using monoclonal antibody-mediated radioimmunoprecipitation demonstrated that high concentrations of ancrod did not cause measurable cleavage of either the glycoproteins Ib-IX or IIb-IIIa. Incubation of radiolabeled platelets with ancrod-treated plasma also had no effect on the platelet glycoproteins, indicating that ancrod does not indirectly affect the major surface receptors. Direct binding studies using radiolabeled ancrod did not demonstrate specific binding to the platelet surface. Together these studies indicate that ancrod does not directly affect nor bind to platelets in vitro. The hypo-coagulant state and subsequent platelet function defect resulting from the use of ancrod appears to be limited to the removal of fibrinogen from the circulation.
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