The molecular-weight-dependence of the anti-coagulant activity of heparin. Academic Article uri icon


  • It is proposed that the anti-coagulant activity of heparin is related to the probability of finding, in a random distribution of different disaccharides, a dodecasaccharide with the sequence required for binding to antithrombin. It is shown that this probability is a function of the degree of polymerization of heparin. The hypothesis has been been tested with a series of narrow-molecular-weight-range fractions ranging from 5,600 to 36,000. The fractions having mol.wts. below 18,000 (comprising 85% of the original preparation) followed the predicted probability relationship as expressed by the proportion of molecules capable of binding to antithrombin. The probability that any randomly chosen dodecasaccharide sequence in heparin should bind to antithrombin was calculated to 0.022. The fraction with mol.wt. 36,000 contained proteoglycan link-region fragments, which may explain the deviation of the high-molecular-weight fractions from the hypothetical relationship. The relationship between anti-coagulant activity and molecular weight cannot be explained solely on the basis of availability of binding sites for antithrombin. The activity of high-affinity heparin (i.e. molecules containing high-affinity binding sites for antithrombin), determined either by a whole-blood clotting procedure or by thrombin inactivation in the presence of antithrombin, thus remained dependent on molecular weight. Possible explanations of this finding are discussed. One explanation could be a requirement for binding of thrombin to the heparin chain adjacent to antithrombin.

published proceedings

  • Biochem J

author list (cited authors)

  • Laurent, T. C., Tengblad, A., Thunberg, L., Hk, M., & Lindahl, U.

citation count

  • 271

complete list of authors

  • Laurent, TC||Tengblad, A||Thunberg, L||Höök, M||Lindahl, U

publication date

  • November 1978