Protein C is a major physiological anticoagulant. It is a vitamin K-dependent serine protease enzyme that is activated by thrombin into activated protein C (APC). The activated form (with protein S and phospholipid as a cofactor) degrades Factor Va and Factor VIIIa. It should not be confused with C peptide or c-reactive protein or protein kinase C.
The protein C pathway’s key enzyme, activated protein C, provides physiologic antithrombotic activity and exhibits both anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic activities. Its actions are related to development of thrombosis and ischemic stroke. The protein C pathway of the coagulation of the blood involves the influences of lipids and lipoproteins and the study of the strong epidemiologic association between hyperlipidemia and hypercoagulability.
Protein C deficiency is a rare genetic disorder that predisposes to venous thrombosis and habitual abortion. If homozygous, this presents with a form of disseminated intravascular coagulation in newborns termed purpura fulminans; it is treated by replacing the defective protein C.
Activated protein C resistance is the inability of protein C to cleave factors V and/or VIII. This may be hereditary or acquired. The best known and most common hereditary form is Factor V Leiden. Acquired forms occur in the presence of elevated Factor VIII concentrations.
Warfarin necrosis is acquired protein C deficiency due to treatment with the vitamin K inhibitor anticoagulant warfarin. In initial stages of action, inhibition of protein C may be stronger than inhibition of the vitamin K-dependent coagulation factors (II, VII, IX and X), leading to paradoxical activation of coagulation and necrosis of skin areas.
HDL and the effects of activated protein C (APC) on cells is very important.