Factor XII (FXII) is the zymogen of a plasma protease (FXIIa) that contributes to bradykinin generation by converting prekallikrein to the protease plasma kallikrein (PKa). FXII conversion to FXIIa by autocatalysis or PKa-mediated cleavage is enhanced when the protein binds to negatively charged surfaces such as polymeric orthophosphate. FXII is composed of noncatalytic (heavy chain) and catalytic (light chain) regions. The heavy chain promotes FXII surface-binding and surface-dependent activation but restricts activation when FXII is not surface bound. From the N terminus, the heavy chain contains fibronectin type 2 (FN2), epidermal growth factor-1 (EGF1), fibronectin type 1 (FN1), EGF2, and kringle (KNG) domains and a proline-rich region. It shares this organization with its homolog, pro-hepatocyte growth factor activator (Pro-HGFA). To study the importance of heavy chain domains in FXII function, we prepared FXII with replacements of each domain with corresponding Pro-HGFA domains and tested them in activation and activity assays. EGF1 is required for surface-dependent FXII autoactivation and surface-dependent prekallikrein activation by FXIIa. KNG and FN2 are important for limiting FXII activation in the absence of a surface by a process that may require interactions between a lysine/arginine binding site on KNG and basic residues elsewhere on FXII. This interaction is disrupted by the lysine analog «-aminocaproic acid. A model is proposed in which an «-aminocaproic acid-sensitive interaction between the KNG and FN2 domains maintains FXII in a conformation that restricts activation. Upon binding to a surface through EGF1, the KNG/FN2-dependent mechanism is inactivated, exposing the FXII activation cleavage site.
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