Platelet-associated IgG (PAIgG) is elevated in idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), but it also is elevated in other thrombocytopenic disorders traditionally considered to be nonimmune. Consequently it is possible that elevated PAIgG is a nonspecific finding secondary to thrombocytopenia. To study this issue we developed a rabbit model of immune and nonimmune mediated thrombocytopenia. The mechanism of the thrombocytopenia was validated by platelet survival studies. Immune thrombocytopenia was produced by injection of antirabbit platelet serum that was raised in guinea pigs. Nonimmune aregenerative thrombocytopenia was produced by irradiation of the animals; nonimmune consumptive thrombocytopenia was produced by injection of adenosine diphosphate (ADP). PAIgG was measured in a direct binding assay using 125I-labeled staphylococcal protein A (SpA). Washed platelets from normal, nonthrombocytopenic rabbits bound an average of 81 molecules of SpA per platelet (81 +/- 168, mean +/- 2 SD, n = 39). Infusion of the antiplatelet antiserum produced thrombocytopenia with a rise in PAIgG that was closely correlated with the level of PAIgG (r = 0.86, n = 12). The thrombocytopenia was consumptive, as shown by a very short platelet life span using 111In- labeled platelets. In contrast, both nonimmune thrombocytopenic states resulted in an equal or greater drop in the platelet count but no change in the level of PAIgG. The animals with aregenerative thrombocytopenia had normal or only moderately reduced platelet life spans; however, in every animal the level of PAIgG was not different from the nonthrombocytopenic controls, irrespective of the platelet count. Similarly, the level of PAIgG was unchanged in those rabbits with nonimmune consumptive thrombocytopenia following infusion of ADP (82 +/- 55 molecules of SpA per platelet, mean +/- SD, n = 6). These studies indicate that elevated PAIgG is a specific finding of immune thrombocytopenia and is not secondary to thrombocytopenia itself. Indirectly these results support our hypothesis that immune mechanisms contribute to more thrombocytopenic disorders than was once thought likely.