Platelet aggregation is not initiated by platelet shape change

Maurer-Spurej E, Devine DV. Lab Invest2001; 81(11):1517-1526.

Because the initial decrease in light transmission in platelet aggregometry is attributed to platelet shape change, it is widely held that platelet shape change is a prerequisite for platelet aggregation. We conducted this study to determine the basis of this initial optical effect in aggregometry. Platelets were activated with ADP, thrombin, or the thrombin receptor agonist peptide SFLLRN (TRAP(1-6)). In every case the initial decrease in light transmission occurred with the concomitant formation of microaggregates. This was also seen when preactivated platelets, which cannot undergo further morphological changes, were used, and when platelets were activated in the presence of shape-change inhibitors such as cytochalasin D and vincristine. Microscopy analysis of samples fixed at minimum light transmission in the aggregometer, which is generally assumed to signal shape change, always showed the presence of microaggregates. Microaggregation appeared to be distinct from full aggregation, as it was not inhibited by the addition of CD61, an antibody to the beta(3) integrin. To model these findings, fibrinogen-coated latex spheres, which cannot change shape, were aggregated with thrombin; the initial decrease in light transmission was still seen, and microaggregates formed at this time. These results indicate that platelet shape change is not a prerequisite for aggregation and that the signal widely believed to represent shape change reflects platelet microaggregation instead. We conclude that platelet aggregation occurs independently of shape change and that shape change is not necessarily followed by aggregation. These observations suggest an alternative role for platelet shape change of single platelets.

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