A recent study demonstrated that platelet accumulation following vascular injury in vivo is hierarchically organized resulting in a structure comprised of a core of fully-activated platelets that is overlaid with an unstable shell of less activated platelets (Stalker et al, Blood, 2013). This structure results from different elements of the platelet signaling network giving rise to regions that differ in platelet activation state, packing density, and stability. It was thus proposed that regional differences in platelet activation reflect regional differences in the distribution of platelet agonists. This provides new insights into heterogeneous platelet activation during platelet accumulation in vivo. Thromboxane A2 (TxA2), a dominant prostanoid product of cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1) generated in platelets, plays an important role in the maintenance of vascular hemostasis and is a major therapeutic target of anti-platelet therapy. But its contribution to the regional architecture of a platelet mass is unknown.


To determine the contribution of TxA2 activity to the hierarchical organization of a thrombus, multicolor intravital microscopy was used to observe platelet accumulation and activation in thromboxane A2 receptor knockout (TP-/-) and low dose aspirin treated WT mice following laser-induced injury in mouse cremaster arterioles.


TP-/- mice showed reduced total platelet (CD41) accumulation following vascular injury, consistent with a previous report (Yu et al, Sci Transl Med, 2012). The peak CD41 area in TP-/- mice was significantly reduced relative to WT mice (p=0.004). Interestingly, the core area of the thrombus in which the platelets are fully activated (P-selectin+), was not significantly different in TP-/- compared to WT during thrombus formation. This suggests that TxA2 signaling via the TP receptor primarily influences platelet recruitment and retention in the outer shell region of a platelet mass, but not full platelet activation in the core region.

Aspirin inhibits TxA2 production through acetylation of COX-1, and is widely used as both primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. We treated WT mice with aspirin in their drinking water (30 mg/L) for more than 1 week to mimic the effect of low dose aspirin treatment in humans (Yu et al, J Clin Invest, 2005). Similar to our findings in TP-/- mice, we found that aspirin treatment reduced total platelet accumulation following laser-induced injury in vivo (p<0.05). The decrease in peak platelet accumulation caused by aspirin was observed in the shell region at early time points (up to 2 min post-injury). In contrast to our findings in the TP-/- mice, low dose aspirin also resulted in reduced platelet activation and core region formation at later timepoints (p<0.05), suggesting that COX-1 may contribute to full platelet activation independent of TP receptor signaling.


Our studies show for the first time the role of TxA2 signaling in producing the hierarchical structure of a platelet mass formed in response to vascular injury. Our data indicate that TxA2signaling is critical for recruitment and/or retention of platelets prior to robust platelet activation including alpha granule secretion. These findings further highlight the importance of discrete spatial localization of platelet agonists within an evolving platelet plug in order to achieve the optimal hemostatic response.

(This study was supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China 81170132 to Li Zhu)


No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

Author notes


Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.