The adhesion ligand von Willebrand factor (VWF) is synthesized and stored in vascular endothelial cells and megakaryocytes/platelets. These cells release VWF in response to similar stimulations. However, a longstanding observation stated that, unlike endothelial cells, platelets do not release the ultra-large form (UL) of VWF upon activation. The lack of ULVWF release may be attributed to the difference in multimerization process in the storage granules or the intrinsic proteolysis of the hyperreactive ULVWF. To examine these possibilities, we analyzed the multimer compositions of VWF stored in and released from platelets. We found that ULVWF was detected by immunobloting of washed platelet lysates in the presence, but not in the absence of 5 mM EDTA. Similarly, when stimulated with 5 μM of thrombin receptor-activating peptide (TRAP), platelets released only VWF that was similar in sizes to plasma VWF, suggesting that platelet ULVWF may have been cleaved before or during its release. In support of this hypothesis, we found that platelets expressed ADAMTS-13-like molecule by western blot of platelet lysates and flow cytometry using two different ADAMTS-13 antibodies. The surface expression of ADAMTS-13-like molecule increased significantly upon platelet activation by TRAP and ADP. Consistent with these observations, the Triton-X-100 lysates of washed platelets and supernatant of washed platelets activated by TRAP contained VWF-cleaving activity, as demonstrated by the cleavage of ULVWF strings formed on histamine-stimulated endothelial cells under fluid shear stress. Our finding is consistent with a previous report, but further showed that this ADAMTS-13-like molecule exists not only in cytoplasma, but also on the surface of platelets. More importantly, the ADAMTS-13-like molecule increased its expression on platelet surface and was released upon platelet activation. The ADAMTS-13-like molecule either in platelets or released upon activation was active in cleaving ULVWF. This intrinsic mechanism for ULVWF proteolysis may be physiologically important. It may prevent the sudden release of hyper-reactive ULVWF from platelets and serve as the second pool of ADAMTS-13 to encounter the increase in ULVWF release from endothelial cells during conditions such as severe infection. The role of the platelet membrane-bound ADAMTS-13 in hemostasis remains to be further determined.

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