OBJECTIVE: To review the experimental and clinical evidence of the emerging role of tissue factor in intravascular thrombosis and to examine evidence supporting the potential use of tissue factor pathway inhibitor as an antithrombotic therapeutic agent. DATA SOURCES AND STUDY SELECTION: A PubMed search was conducted encompassing articles in the English language relating to tissue factor and tissue factor pathway inhibitor in intravascular coagulation. CONCLUSIONS: Tissue factor, a membrane-bound procoagulant glycoprotein, is the initiator of the extrinsic clotting cascade, which is the predominant coagulation pathway in vivo. The traditional view localizes tissue factor to extravascular sites, where it remains sequestered from circulating factor VII until vascular integrity is disrupted or until tissue factor expression is induced in endothelial cells or monocytes. This perspective has been challenged since the discovery of tissue factor antigen in plasma, on circulating microparticles, and on leukocytes in whole blood. Recently, the apparent role of tissue factor has expanded with the demonstration that this molecule also functions as a signaling receptor. Recombinant tissue factor pathway inhibitor, an analogue of the physiologic inhibitor of tissue factor, is a potent inhibitor of thrombus formation in experimental models. In summary, the tissue factor pathway initiates thrombosis in vivo. In addition to its classic tissue-bound distribution, recently discovered blood-borne tissue factor may have an important procoagulant function. Despite showing promise in early human studies, a recently completed phase 3 trial of recombinant tissue factor pathway inhibitor in severe sepsis failed to show a reduction in the primary end point of 28-day all-cause mortality. Tissue factor pathway inhibitor, however, remains a plausible therapeutic agent in other conditions of increased thrombogenicity, such as acute coronary syndromes, and further studies to examine this potential are warranted.
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