Activation of complement and kinin systems after thrombolytic therapy in patients with acute myocardial infarction: A comparison between streptokinase and recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator

Angelo Agostoni, Marco Gardinali, Donatella Frangi, Cristina Cafaro, Luisa Conciato, Carlo Sponzilli, Alessandro Salvioni, Massimo Cugno, Marco Cicardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: We have previously shown that treatment with streptokinase induces abrupt complement activation and transient neutropenia in patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI). The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of two different thrombolytic agents-streptokinase (SK) and recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rTPA)-on activation of the complement and kinin systems in plasma of patients with AMI. Methods and Results: Forty-one patients with AMI who were eligible for thrombolytic therapy were studied. Twenty-three patients were treated with streptokinase (1.5 million IU IV over 60 minutes) and 18 were treated with rTPA (8 with bolus of 10 mg IV, followed by 50 mg infused over 60 minutes and then 40 mg infused over 120 minutes; 10 patients were administered rTPA and heparin according to the accelerated infusion protocol indicated by the GUSTO study). C4a and C3a were measured by radioimmunoassay, soluble terminal complement components (SC5b-9) and anti-SK IgG antibodies were measured by ELISA. Cleaved high molecular weight kininogen (HK) was quantitated in plasma by SDS-PAGE and immunoblotting analysis. C4a levels were significantly and similarly increased in both groups, whereas the levels of C3a and SC5b-9 after rTPA infusion were only slightly elevated and were significantly lower than after SK. No differences were observed between patients treated with slow or accelerated rTPA regimens. The titer of antibodies to SK was highly correlated with the levels of C3a and SC5b-9, whereas a lesser correlation was observed with C4a. Treatment with rTPA did not induce the transient neutropenia observed after SK infusion. The cleavage products of HK were significantly greater after SK than after rTPA infusion. Conclusions: Our results show that both thrombolytic agents activate the classic complement pathway and that plasmin could be the common trigger for this phenomenon. A significant activation of the complement common pathway (from C3 to terminal components) was observed only with SK infusion and is attributable to the rapid formation of immunocomplexes between SK and anti-SK antibodies present in plasma as a consequence of previous streptococcal infections. The minimal activation of C5 component of the common pathway explains the absence of leukopenia in patients treated with rTPA. Cleavage of HK, larger after SK than after rTPA infusion, represents a condition enhancing the generation of bradykinin by kallikrein. The recent experimental data that indicate a damaging effect of complement activation on the infarcted zone and the contrasting favorable effect consequent to bradykinin formation raise some questions about the clinical importance of the different biological consequences of SK versus rTPA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2666-2670
Number of pages5
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 1994


  • complement
  • kinin
  • plasminogen activators
  • streptokinase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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