Thirteen of 14 tumor cells or tumor cell lines of guinea pig, mouse, and human origin spontaneously shed procoagulant activity in short-term (4 or 14 to 22 hr) tissue culture under conditions of high cell viability. This released procoagulant activity was pelletable in the ultracentrifuge and was associated with plasma membrane-derived vesicles as determined by transmission electron microscopy and marker enzyme analysis. The procoagulant activity shed corresponded to a substantial fraction of that expressed by intact or sonicated tumor cells and was composed of activities interacting at more than a single step in the clotting sequence. One procoagulant activity associated with shed human tumor vesicles behaved as tissue factor, requiring Factor VII for activity and being inhibited by a specific anti-bovine tissue factor antibody. Guinea pig tumor vesicles also exhibited tissue factor-like activity in a two-stage assay using homologous first-stage Factor VII/X concentrate. None of the human vesicles tested expressed a direct Factor X cleaving activity, independent of Factor VII. Shed tumor vesicles also acted at a second step late in the clotting cascade at the level of prothrombinase generation, presumably by providing a phospholipid surface.

Taken together, these data indicate that a wide variety of tumor cells release plasma membrane vesicles with procoagulant activity. Such vesicles, as well as intact tumor cells themselves, may play an important role in the biology of tumor growth by inducing the local fibrin deposits found in association with many solid tumors.


This work was supported by the National Foundation for Cancer Research and by USPHS Grants CA 28471 and HL 22980. We thank Dr. Yale Nemerson for Factor Vlla; Dr. Robert D. Rosenberg for 3H Factor X, helpful advice, and for a critical reading of the manuscript; and Dr. Bernard Ransil for computer assistance.

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