Heparanase, the only mammalian enzyme known to degrade heparan sulfate chains, affects the hemostatic system through several mechanisms. Along with the degrading effect, heparanase engenders release of syndecan-1 from the cell surface and directly enhances the activity of the blood coagulation initiator, tissue factor, in the coagulation system. Upregulation of tissue factor and release of tissue factor pathway inhibitor from the cell surface contribute to the prothrombotic effect. Tissue factor pathway inhibitor and the strongest physiological anticoagulant antithrombin are attached to the endothelial cell surface by heparan sulfate. Hence, degradation of heparan sulfate induces further release of these two natural anticoagulants from endothelial cells. Elevated heparanase procoagulant activity and heparan sulfate chain levels in plasma, demonstrated in cancer, pregnancy, oral contraceptive use, and aging, could suggest a potential mechanism for increased risk of thrombosis in these clinical settings. In contrast to the blood circulation, accumulation of heparan sulfate chains in transudate and exudate pleural effusions induces a local anticoagulant milieu. The anticoagulant effect of heparan sulfate chains in other closed spaces such as peritoneal or subdural cavities should be further investigated.
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