Morphological analysis of microparticle generation in heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.
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Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) with thrombosis is a serious complication of heparin use. HIT sera can generate platelet-derived microparticles, which are produced in a heparin-dependent manner and are hypothesized to be important initial pathological participants because they promote vascular occlusion. To date, microparticles have been studied using flow cytometric techniques. However, it is uncertain whether the small-sized material seen in flow cytometric studies represents true platelet microparticles shed from activated platelets or whether they are platelets that have contracted after releasing their internal components. This report describes a morphological investigation of platelet-derived microparticles in HIT using, among other techniques, confocal, scanning electron, and transmission electron microscopy. Following incubation with HIT sera, the existence of small membrane-bound vesicles in the milieu of activated platelets was demonstrated. A population of microparticles, expressing platelet-specific glycoproteins, was separated from platelets by centrifugation over a sucrose layer. These microparticles had identical flow cytometric profiles, size heterogeneity, and GPIb(alpha) and GPIIb/IIIa staining intensity as the microparticle population in unfractionated samples. When microparticles were generated in situ and fixed onto grids, they were demonstrated to be distinct membrane-bound vesicles that originated near the platelet body and terminal ends of pseudopods on activated platelets. These microparticles appeared to be generated by localized swelling, budding, and release. Collectively, these morphological studies document the existence of true microparticles in platelets activated by HIT sera. The microparticles may play an important role in the pathogenesis of HIT.
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