The fibrinolytic system provides an essential means to remove fibrin deposits and blood clots. The actual protease responsible for this is plasmin, formed from its precursor, plasminogen. Fibrin is heralded as it most renowned substrate but for many years plasmin has been known to cleave many other substrates, and to also activate other proteolytic systems. Recent clinical studies have shown that the promotion of plasmin can lead to an immunosuppressed phenotype, in part via its ability to modulate cytokine expression. Almost all immune cells harbor at least one of a dozen plasminogen receptors that allows plasmin formation on the cell surface that in turn modulates immune cell behavior. Similarly, a multitude of pathogens can also express their own plasminogen activators, or contain surface proteins that provide binding sites host plasminogen. Plasmin formed under these circumstances also empowers these pathogens to modulate host immune defense mechanisms. Phylogenetic studies have revealed that the plasminogen activating system predates the appearance of fibrin, indicating that plasmin did not evolve as a fibrinolytic protease but perhaps has its roots as an immune modifying protease. While its fibrin removing capacity became apparent in lower vertebrates these primitive under-appreciated immune modifying functions still remain and are now becoming more recognised.
- Immune response
- Plasminogen activation