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Contact activation is triggered when blood is exposed to compounds or "surfaces" that promote conversion of the plasma zymogens factor XII (FXII) and prekallikrein to the active proteases FXIIa and kallikrein. FXIIa promotes blood coagulation by converting zymogen factor XI (FXI) to the protease FXIa. Contact activation appears to represent an enhancement of the propensity for FXII and prekallikrein to reciprocally activate each other by surface-independent limited proteolysis. The nature of the activities that perpetuate this process, and that trigger contact activation, are debated. FXII and prekallikrein, like most members of the chymotrypsin/trypsin protease family, are synthesized as single polypeptides that are presumed to be in an inactive state. Internal cleavage leads to conformational changes in the protease domain that convert the enzyme active site from a closed conformation to an open conformation accessible to substrates. We observed that FXII expresses a low level of activity as a single-chain zymogen that catalyzes prekallikrein activation in solution, as well as surface-dependent activation of prekallikrein, FXI, and FXII (autoactivation). Prekallikrein also expresses activity that promotes cleavage of kininogen to release bradykinin, and surface-dependent FXII activation. Modeling suggests that a glutamine residue at position 156 in the FXII and prekallikrein protease domains stabilizes an open active site conformation by forming hydrogen bonds with Asp194. The activity inherent in FXII and prekallikrein suggests a mechanism for sustaining reciprocal activation of the proteins and for initiating contact activation, and supports the premise that zymogens of some trypsin-like enzymes are active proteases. © 2020 International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis.


Aleksandr Shamanaev, Jonas Emsley, David Gailani. Proteolytic activity of contact factor zymogens. Journal of thrombosis and haemostasis : JTH. 2021 Feb;19(2):330-341

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PMID: 33107140

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