Posttransfusion purpura typically occurs in PLA1 negative blood recipients who have been previously immunized to the PLA1 antigen. Following transfusion, severe thrombocytopenia develops with the formation of anti-PLA1. Since the patients' platelets lack the PLA1 antigen, one would not expect this antibody to destroy autologous platelets. In this study we show that PLA1 antigen exists in stored blood and can absorb to PLA1 negative platelets making them PLA1 reactive. Incubating PLA1 (-) platelets with ultracentrifuged plasma from PLA1 (+) blood donors allowed anti-PLA1 to bind to PLA1 (-) platelets. Control plasma from PLA1 (-) blood donors did not lead to anti-PLA1 binding. Using an inhibition assay, we showed that stored blood contains PLA1 material that was not removed by ultracentrifugation. The material absorbing to PLA1 (-) platelets represented the PLA1 antigen, which was confirmed by Western blotting. After incubating plasma containing PLA1 antigen with PLA1 (-) platelets, reactivity at 95,000 D was observed. Native PLA1 (+) platelets showed a similar band. When PLA1 (-) platelets were incubated with plasma from a PLA1 (-) donor, this band was not present. These studies show that a soluble form of PLA1 antigen exists in stored blood that can absorb to PLA1 (-) platelets. Consequently, anti-PLA1 can bind to these platelets leading to thrombocytopenia. These observations may explain the autologous destruction of platelets in posttransfusion purpura.