Conditions affecting the responses of human platelets to epinephrine were examined. In platelet-rich plasma prepared from blood anticoagulated with hirudin or PPACK (D-pheny- lalanyl-L-prolyl-L-arginine chloromethyl ketone), epinephrine did not cause shape change or aggregation. In a Tyrode-albumin- apyrase solution containing a concentration of Ca2+ in the physiological range, and fibrinogen, epinephrine in concentrations as high as 40 μM did not induce platelet shape change, caused either no primary aggregation or very slight primary aggregation, and did not induce thromboxane formation, release of dense granule contents, or secondary aggregation. In contrast, in citrated platelet-rich plasma, epinephrine induced two phases of aggregation. This is not attributable to the generation of traces of thrombin since the same effects were evident when blood was taken into a combined citrate-hirudin anticoagulant or a combined citrate-PPACK anticoagulant. In a modified Tyrode-albu- min-apyrase solution containing approximately 20 μM Ca2+, 1 mM Mg2+, and fibrinogen, epinephrine induced extensive aggregation after a lag phase, but no primary phase was evident; thromboxane formation and release of dense granule contents accompanied the aggregation response. These responses were also observed when PPACK was included with the acid-citrate- dextrose anticoagulant, and in the washing and resuspending fluids. In the presence of aspirin or the thromboxane receptor blocker BM 13.177 a few small aggregates were detected by particle counting and by scanning electron microscopy; with the latter inhibitor, the platelets in the aggregates retained their disc shape; secondary aggregation and the responses associated with it did not occur. Thus thromboxane A2 formation is not necessary for the formation of these small aggregates, but is required for extensive aggregation and release. As with other weak agonists, the close platelet-to-platelet contact in the low Ca2+ medium appears to be necessary for full secondary aggregation. Omission of fibrinogen from the low Ca2+ medium prevented both primary and secondary aggregation in response to epinephrine. An antibody (10E5) to the glycoprotein Ilb/IIIa complex was completely inhibitory in the presence of fibrinogen. Thus the response of human platelets to epinephrine is influenced by the concentration of Ca2+ and the presence of fibrinogen in the medium in which they are suspended.