At the site of vascular injury, platelet activation is paramount in supporting formation of a platelet plug and generating a functional surface for the protein elements of coagulation. Recently, we demonstrated that the receptors for the α-granule constituent Gas6, support and enhance platelet aggregation and dense-granule release. The current study examined additional affects of Gas6 signaling in human platelets and sought to decipher intracellular signaling mechanisms initiated by stimulation of Axl, a Gas6 platelet receptor. Flow cytometry analyses indicated that all three Gas6 receptors, Axl, Sky, and Mer were present on the platelet surface. Blockade of Gas6, Sky, or Mer by specific antibodies not only inhibited TRAP- and ADP-induced platelet aggregation and dense granule release, but also prevented thrombin mediated clot retraction by as much as 55%. Furthermore, intracellular calcium mobilization in response to TRAP activation was greater than 80% inhibited in the presence of each of these blocking antibodies. A highly specific antibody directed toward Axl (< 2% cross reactivity with Sky and Mer) activated Axl leading to an enhancement of TRAP and ADP induced aggregation and degranulation. Stimulation of human platelets by this Axl agonist led to a modest, but sustained increase in calcium mobilization suggesting that Axl signaling incorporated activation of PLC. The increase in calcium mobilization was sensitive to wortmannin, demonstrating that PLC activation occurred concurrent with or downstream of PI3K. Indeed, additional experiments to ascertain the intracellular mediators of Axl activity identified a two-fold increase in specific phosphorylation of Akt downstream of PI3K as well as a similar increase in phosphorylation of PLCγ. TRAP stimulation of human platelets also increased the phosphorylation levels of Akt and PLCγ in a Gas6 dependent manner as a Gas6 blocking antibody reduced the levels of Akt and PLCγ phosphorylation by 50%. Overall, these studies suggest that Gas6 enhancement of human platelet activation occurs through the low-level stimulation of the intracellular signaling molecules Akt and PLCγ, serving at the juncture of several mediators of platelet activation. These events also increase levels of cytoplasmic calcium, further supporting an enhancement of activation observed in response to low levels of known platelet agonists. Thus, platelet Gas6 functions to support platelet activation at the very early stages of the hemostatic response to injury.

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