Hereditary angioedema (HAE) attacks are caused by excessive activation of the contact system. Understanding how the contact system is activated in HAE, especially in patients with normal C1 inhibitor (HAEnCI), is essential to effectively treat this disease. Contact system activation involves the cleavage of several proteins including Factor XII (FXII), high molecular weight kininogen (HK), prekallikrein, sgp120 (ITIH4) and C1 inhibitor (C1-INH) before the subsequent generation of bradykinin that mediates HAE. In this study, we evaluated the fragmentation and enzymatic activity of contact system proteins in HAEnCI plasma samples before and after contact system activation induced by incubation in the cold. Our results show that in contrast to normal plasma, cold activation induced contact system activation in the majority of the HAEnCI patient samples we tested, in which each contact system protein exhibited fragmentation, FXII and kallikrein enzymatic activity increased, and C1-INH functional activity decreased. HAEnCI samples with low FXII concentrations or functional activity were not affected by cold activation. One HAEnCI sample with a plasminogen gene mutation activated the fibrinolytic system, as shown by an increase in concentration of plasma D dimers. Our results suggest that cold activation seems to be initiated by the cleavage of prekallikrein, and that it needs FXII in order to occur. Reported to be susceptible to excessive contact system activation after incubation in the cold, we further applied this system of study to the evaluation of plasma from women undergoing estrogen treatment. Similar to plasma from HAEnCI patients, excessive contact system activation was demonstrated. Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
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