We have examined the morphological and secretory behavior of rat and guinea pig megakaryocytes exposed for up to 24 hours to extracellular matrix produced by cultured bovine endothelial cells. By phase-contrast microscopy of living cells and in more detail by scanning electron microscopy, the megakaryocytes showed a nonreversible adherence, an extensive formation of filopodia around the periphery like the rays of the sun, and a tendency toward flattening. These filopodia were generally linear with attenuated tips and were larger than, but resembled the filopodia of, rat or guinea pig platelets exposed to this extracellular matrix. In contrast, isolated megakaryocytes on glass or on uncoated plastic surfaces did not show these responses; adherence, in the face of gentle agitation before fixation, was minimal, with rare filopodia and no flattening. Megakaryocytes that interacted with the extracellular matrix produced significant amounts of thromboxane A2, but this did not occur on uncoated surfaces and could not be attributed to other contaminating cells in the megakaryocyte suspensions. The appearance in megakaryocytes of these typical platelet responses indicates that megakaryocytes acquire the functional capabilities of platelets by the synthesis and assembly of platelet substances and organelles. Thromboxane production by megakaryocytes stimulated by the extracellular matrix is a readily quantifiable measure of this capacity.
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