The effects of dietary cholesterol and chronic administration of moderate amounts of ethanol on collagen-induced platelet responses were investigated. Three groups of rabbits were fed the following diets for 8 weeks: a normal chow diet, a cholesterol-enriched (0.25% wt/wt) chow diet, and a cholesterol-enriched chow diet plus 6% ethanol in the drinking water for the final week of the dietary period. Cholesterol feeding enhanced collagen-induced responses-aggregation, secretion of [14C]serotonin from prelabeled platelets, and thromboxane formation--of suspensions of washed platelets, and chronic ethanol treatment significantly reduced these enhanced responses. These effects are mediated by thromboxane A2 (TxA2) rather than ADP. Experiments with collagen-stimulated platelets in which feedback amplification of TxA2 was blocked with the prostaglandin H2/TxA2 receptor blocker BM 13.177 and experiments with aspirin-treated platelets stimulated with the stable TxA2 mimetic U46619 showed that cholesterol feeding enhanced platelet sensitivity to TxA2 rather than formation of TxA2 by platelets that had interacted with collagen. Without BM 13.177 or aspirin, TxA2 increased the amount of TxA2 formed by feedback amplification. In contrast, decreased responsiveness to collagen by platelets from cholesterol-fed rabbits given ethanol was due to inhibition of TxA2 formation rather than reduced sensitivity to TxA2. Platelets from cholesterol-fed rabbits given ethanol did not develop tolerance to the acute inhibitory effects of ethanol. Our results indicate that administration of moderate amounts of ethanol to cholesterol-fed rabbits inhibits enhanced collagen-induced responses of platelets by a TxA2-dependent pathway that involves reduction of TxA2 formation rather than reduction of platelet responses to TxA2.