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The role of plasma proteins in formation of obstructive protamine complexes

Elsevier Inc.
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/1053-0770(91)90279-3
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Abstract Formation of complexes between heparin and protamine (in saline), or heparin, plasma proteins, and protamine (in plasma) was assessed by measurements of light transmission through different test solutions. To examine the formation of these complexes, 125I-labeled protamine was used. Addition of 125I-protamine to plasma or blood resulted in the sedimentation of 125I-protamine in the form of insoluble complexes. This complex formation was not affected by the presence of heparin, suggesting that protamine-plasma protein interaction may be primarily responsible for precipitation of 125I-protamine. To assess the capability of these complexes to obstruct the pulmonary circulation, an in vitro experimental model was developed. Citrated serum, plasma, blood, or saline were allowed to flow through a glass bead column with the help of a peristaltic pump. A pressure transducer positioned before the column allowed pressure measurements at a constant flow rate during the experiment. Mixing of protamine with plasma or blood prior to their passage through the glass bead column resulted in a significant increase in pressure suggesting that the column was being clogged with insoluble complexes. The increase in pressure occurred both in the presence and absence of heparin in plasma or blood. Under identical experimental conditions, the increase in pressure was insignificant when protamine was added to saline or serum regardless of whether heparin was present or absent. This was further confirmed by the use of 125I-protamine. These observations suggest that protamine forms insoluble complexes with certain plasma proteins. Based on these observations, it is hypothesized that following intravenous administration, protamine immediately forms complexes in circulating blood. These complexes may contribute to the hemodynamic derangements observed following protamine neutralization of heparin.

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