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Gram-negative septicemia elicits multiple abnormalities of the coagulation system. Although products of coagulation can lead to clot formation, thereby potentiating organ damage, recent work has shown that low concentrations of thrombin can protect animals from the shock state. Because these amounts of thrombin also lead to formation in vivo of the anticoagulant enzyme, activated protein C, we examined the role of protein C in modulation of Escherichia coli shock in baboons. First, we infused activated protein C and lethal concentrations of E. coli organisms, which prevented the coagulopathic, hepatotoxic, and lethal effects of E. coli. Second, using an antibody to protein C we blocked protein C activation in vivo to determine if this influenced the response to lethal and sublethal concentrations of E. coli organisms. Under these conditions the response to lethal concentrations of E. coli organisms was made more severe and the response to sublethal concentrations of E. coli was made lethal. The coagulopathic, hepatotoxic, and lethal responses in this latter case were prevented by infusion of exogenous protein C.