The mechanisms that determine and regulate platelet size are unknown. By phase microscopy, we observed that Wistar Furth (WF) rats had macrothrombocytopenia. In this study, we have characterized and compared platelets and megakaryocytes of WF rats with those of Wistar, Long-Evans hooded (LE), and Sprague-Dawley rats. In addition, we have examined the mode of inheritance of this WF rat platelet abnormality. The average platelet count of WF rats was only one-third that of the other three rat strains. In contrast, the mean platelet volume (MPV) of adult WF rats was twice that of the other rat strains; however, the average megakaryocyte diameter and DNA content distribution of WF rats were not significantly different from those of LE rats. The average megakaryocyte concentration was 30% lower in the WF strain compared with that of LE rats. Mazelike membrane formations were observed in WF platelets and megakaryocytes by electron microscopy. Reciprocal crosses of WF and LE rats resulted in offspring with MPVs and platelet counts like those of LE rats, indicating that the macrothrombocytopenic trait is recessive in its inheritance. Reciprocal marrow transplants between the WF and LE strains resulted in MPVs like those of the donor strain, demonstrating that the macrothrombocytopenia is an intrinsic marrow abnormality of the WF strain. Splenectomy did not alter the MPV of WF rats. The response of WF megakaryocytes and platelets to severe, acute thrombocytopenia was similar to that of LE rats except that the shift to higher megakaryocyte DNA contents was muted and platelet recovery was slower in the WF rats. In summary, the WF rat has a hereditary macrothrombocytopenia that is recessive in nature and not due to differences in megakaryocyte size or DNA content. These results suggest that the macrothrombocytopenia of WF rats results from the formation of fewer platelets per megakaryocyte, possibly resulting from a qualitative or quantitative defect in some component necessary for proper subdivision of megakaryocyte cytoplasm into platelets.

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