Messages for 2 isoforms of TFPI have been identified. TFPIα mRNA encodes a protein with an acidic N-terminus, 3 Kunitz-type protease inhibitor domains and a basic C-terminus that has been purified from plasma and culture media. TFPIβ mRNA encodes a form in which the Kunitz-3 and C-terminal domains of TFPIα are replaced with an alternative C-terminus that directs the attachment of a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor, but whether TFPIβ protein is actually expressed is not clear. Moreover, previous studies have suggested that the predominant form of TFPI released from cells by phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C (PIPLC) treatment is TFPIα, implying it is bound at cell surfaces to a separate GPI-anchored coreceptor.
Our studies show that the form of TFPI released by PIPLC treatment of cultured endothelial cells and placental microsomes is actually TFPIβ based on (1) migration on SDS-PAGE before and after deglycosylation, (2) the lack of a Kunitz-3 domain, and (3) it contains a GPI anchor.
Immunoassays demonstrate that, although endothelial cells secrete TFPIα, greater than 95% of the TFPI released by PIPLC treatment from the surface of endothelial cells and from placental microsomes is TFPIβ.