The membrane potential of the human platelet was investigated using the membrane potential probes 3,3′-dipropyl-2,2′-thiadicarbocyanine iodide and tritiated triphenylmethylphosphonium bromide. The membrane potential in physiologic buffer was estimated to be 52–60 mV inside negative. The membrane was depolarized when extracellular potassium or hydrogen ion concentrations were increased. Changes in extracellular sodium, chloride, or calcium ion concentration had no measurable effect on membrane potential. Elevated extracellular potassium has been shown to increase platelet sensitivity to the aggregating agent, adenosine diphosphate. Our results show that changes in extracellular ion concentrations that depolarize platelets increase platelet sensitivity to aggregating agents. These results suggest that membrane potential changes may play a role in modulating the response of platelets to aggregating agents.

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