Aims Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) and plasminogen activator (PA)/plasmin-mediated proteolysis, especially at the cell surface, play important roles in matrix degeneration and smooth muscle cell migration, which largely contributes to vein graft failure. In this study, a novel hybrid protein was designed to inhibit both protease systems simultaneously. MMP and plasmin activity were inhibited at the cell surface by this hybrid protein, consisting of the receptor-binding amino-terminal fragment (ATF) of urokinase-type PA, linked to both the tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMP-1) and bovine pancreas trypsin inhibitor (BPTI), a potent protease inhibitor. The effect of overexpression of this protein on vein graft disease was studied. Methods and resultsA non-viral expression vector encoding the hybrid protein TIMP-1.ATF.BPTI was constructed and validated. Next, cultured segments of human veins were transfected with this vector. Expressing TIMP-1.ATF.BPTI in vein segments resulted in a mean 36 ± 14 reduction in neointima formation after 4 weeks. In vivo inhibition of vein graft disease by TIMP-1.ATF.BPTI is demonstrated in venous interpositions placed into carotid arteries of hypercholesterolaemic APOE*3Leiden mice. After 4 weeks, vein graft thickening was significantly inhibited in mice treated with the domains TIMP-1, ATF, or BPTI (36-49 reduction). In the TIMP-1.ATF.BPTI-treated mice, vein graft thickening was reduced by 67±4, which was also significantly stronger when compared with the individual components.Conclusion These data provide evidence that cell surface-bound inhibition of the PA and MMP system by the hybrid protein TIMP-1.ATF.BPTI, overexpressed in distant tissues after electroporation-mediated non-viral gene transfer, is a powerful approach to prevent vein graft disease. © 2010 The Author.