Factor XI, bound to the cell surface, is converted to activated factor XI (factor XIa). In the body, this reaction occurs on the surfaces of activated platelets (Baglia et al. 2002). Small quantities of factor XI can be activated in a reaction catalyzed by factor XIIa, to initiate formation of a fibrin clot. However, the efficient activation of larger quantities of factor XI, needed to propagate the blood clotting process, appears to be mediated by thrombin (Baglia and Walsh 2000; Gailani and Broze 1993; Naito and Fujikawa 1991; Oliver et al. 1999; Monroe et al. 2002).
Some direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) drugs are potent, competitive direct thrombin inhibitors (DTIs). They reversibly and specifically binds both clot-bound and free thrombin (unlike warfarin or heparin), as well as inhibiting thrombin-induced platelet aggregation. These drugs can be synthetic organic compounds (dabigatran, argatroban) or recombinant peptides (lepirudin, bivalirudin, desirudin). Dabigatran (brand name Pradexa) is formulated as a lipophilic prodrug, dabigatran etexilate, to promote gastrointestinal absorption before it is metabolised to the active drug. The kidneys excrete the majority (80%) of unchanged drug (Stangier et al. 2007). Argatroban is a synthetic inhibitor of thrombin derived from L-arginine, which has a relatively short period of binding only to thrombin’s active site (Hursting et al. 1997). It is given intravenously and is metabolised in the liver. Because of its hepatic metabolism, it may be used in patients with renal dysfunction. Lepirudin (brand name Refludan) is a recombinant hirudin derived from yeast cells (Weitz et al. 1990). Hirudin is a naturally occurring anticoagulant produced by the salivary glands of medicinal leeches. Bivalirudin (brand name Angiomax, Angiox) is a synthetic analog of hirudin, with a shorter period of binding to thrombin (Gladwell 2002). Desirudin (brand name Iprivask) is another recombinant hirudin derivative that directly inhibits free and fibrin-bound thrombin (Graetz et al. 2011). Melagatran is the active drug formed from the prodrug ximelagatran and is a competitive and rapid inhibitor of thrombin (Gustafsson et al. 1998). DuP 714 is a potent and specific thrombin inhibitor (Chiu et al. 1991).