Thrombin is an essential procoagulant and profibrotic mediator. However, its implication in tuberculous pleural effusion (TBPE) remains unknown. The effusion thrombin and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) levels were measured among transudative pleural effusion (TPE, n = 22) and TBPE (n = 24) patients. Pleural fibrosis, identified as radiological residual pleural thickening (RPT) and shadowing, was measured at 12-month follow-up. Moreover, in vivo and in vitro effects of thrombin on PAI-1 expression and mesothelial–mesenchymal transition (MMT) were assessed. We demonstrated the effusion thrombin levels were significantly higher in TBPE than TPE, especially greater in TBPE patients with RPT > 10mm than those without, and correlated positively with PAI-1 and pleural fibrosis area. In carbon black/bleomycin-treated mice, knockdown of protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) markedly downregulated α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) and fibronectin, and attenuated pleural fibrosis. In pleural mesothelial cells (PMCs), thrombin concentration-dependently increased PAI-1, α-SMA, and collagen I expression. Specifically, Mycobacterium tuberculosis H37Ra (MTBRa) induced thrombin production by PMCs via upregulating tissue factor and prothrombin, and PAR-1 silencing considerably abrogated MTBRa−stimulated PAI-1 expression and mmT. Consistently, prothrombin/PAR-1 expression was evident in the pleural mesothelium of TBPE patients. Conclusively, thrombin upregulates PAI-1 and mmT and may contribute to tuberculous pleural fibrosis. Thrombin/PAR-1 inhibition may confer potential therapy for pleural fibrosis.
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