Biochemical, molecular and clinical aspects of coagulation factor VII and its role in hemostasis and thrombosis.

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Activated factor VII (FVIIa), the first protease of clotting, expresses its physiological procoagulant potential only after complexing with tissue factor (TF) exposed to blood. Deep knowledge of the FVIIa-TF complex and F7 gene helps to understand the Janus-faced clinical findings associated to low or elevated FVII activity (FVIIc). Congenital FVII deficiency, the most frequent among the recessively inherited bleeding disorders, is caused by heterogeneous mutations in the F7 gene. Complete FVII deficiency causes perinatal lethality. A wide range of bleeding symptoms, from life-threatening intracranial hemorrhage to mild mucosal bleeding, is observed in patients with apparently modest differences in FVIIc levels. Though clinically relevant FVIIc threshold levels are still uncertain, effective management, including prophylaxis, has been devised, substantially improving the quality of life of patients. The exposure of TF in diseased arteries fostered investigation on the role of FVII in cardiovascular disease. FVIIc levels were found to be predictors of cardiovascular death and to be markedly associated to F7 gene variation. These genotype-phenotype relationships are among the most extensively investigated in humans. Genome-wide analyses extended association to numerous loci that, together with F7, explain >50% of FVII level plasma variance. However, the ability of F7 variation to predict thrombosis was not consistently evidenced in the numerous population studies. Main aims of this review are to highlight i) the biological and clinical information that distinguishes FVII deficiency from the other clotting disorders and ii) the impact exerted by genetically predicted FVII level variation on bleeding as well as on the thrombotic states.

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