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A high-fat diet delays plasmin generation in a thrombomodulin-dependent manner in mice

Obesity is a prevalent prothrombotic risk factor marked by enhanced fibrin formation and suppressed fibrinolysis. Fibrin both promotes thrombotic events and drives obesity pathophysiology, but a lack of essential analytical tools has left fibrinolytic mechanisms affected by obesity poorly defined. Using a plasmin-specific fluorogenic substrate, we developed a plasmin generation (PG) assay for mouse plasma that is sensitive to tissue plasminogen activator, α2-antiplasmin, active plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI-1), and fibrin formation, but not fibrin crosslinking. Compared with plasmas from mice fed a control diet, plasmas from mice fed a high-fat diet (HFD) showed delayed PG and reduced PG velocity. Concurrent to impaired PG, HFD also enhanced thrombin generation (TG). The collective impact of abnormal TG and PG in HFD-fed mice produced normal fibrin formation kinetics but delayed fibrinolysis. Functional and proteomic analyses determined that delayed PG in HFD-fed mice was not due to altered levels of plasminogen, α2-antiplasmin, or fibrinogen. Changes in PG were also not explained by elevated PAI-1 because active PAI-1 concentrations required to inhibit the PG assay were 100-fold higher than circulating concentrations in mice. HFD-fed mice had increased circulating thrombomodulin, and inhibiting thrombomodulin or thrombin-activatable fibrinolysis inhibitor (TAFI) normalized PG, revealing a thrombomodulin- and TAFI-dependent antifibrinolytic mechanism. Integrating kinetic parameters to calculate the metric of TG/PG ratio revealed a quantifiable net shift toward a prothrombotic phenotype in HFD-fed mice. Integrating TG and PG measurements may define a prothrombotic risk factor in diet-induced obesity.