Pig Thrombomodulin Binds Human Thrombin but Is a Poor Cofactor for Activation of Human Protein C and TAFI


* Corresponding author: Peter Cowan, peter.cowan@svhm.org.au


Incompatibility between pig thrombomodulin (TM) and primate thrombin is thought to be an important factor in the development of microvascular thrombosis in rejecting pig-to-primate xenografts. To examine this interaction at the molecular level, we cloned pig TM and measured its ability to bind human thrombin and act as a cofactor for the activation of human protein C and TAFI. The 579-residue pig TM protein showed approximately 69% sequence identity to human TM. Within the EGF domains necessary for binding of thrombin (EGF56), protein C (EGF4) and TAFI (EGF3), all of the amino acids previously identified as critical for the function of human TM, with the exception of Glu-408 in EGF5, were conserved in pig TM. Comparison of transfected cells expressing pig or human TM demonstrated that both proteins bound human thrombin and inhibited its procoagulant activity. However, pig TM was a poor cofactor for the activation of human protein C and TAFI, with domain swapping showing that EGF5 was the most important determinant of compatibility. Thus, while pig TM may be capable of binding thrombin generated in the vicinity of xenograft endothelium, its failure to promote the activation of human protein C remains a significant problem.