The localization of three known alpha-granule proteins, thrombospondin (TSP), von Willebrand factor (vWF), and fibrinogen (Fg) has been studied in human megakaryocytes (MK) by immunofluorescence and immunoelectron microscopy. For this study, highly purified populations of MK were prepared from human bone marrow either by counterflow centrifugal elutriation or by cell culture from normal subjects and from two patients with megakaryoblastic leukemia. In normal bone marrow immature MK, TSP, and vWF were observed in the Golgi-associated vesicles and in small immature alpha-granules; in mature MK, they were found in the matrix of the mature large alpha-granules. Surprisingly, Fg was detected neither in the Golgi area, nor in the small precursors of alpha-granules; it was only found in the mature alpha-granules but this labeling was generally weaker than in blood platelets. In order to confirm these differences between the expression of Fg and vWF or TSP additional studies were performed on cultured maturing MK: immunofluorescent and ultrastructural immunogold labeling confirmed that vWF appeared early in the maturation while the same immature MK were negative for Fg. In the late maturation stage, the three proteins were detected in the alpha-granules. In order to know whether Fg was lately synthesized or endocytosed from the outside medium, normal MK were grown in the presence of either normal or afibrinogenemic plasma, and normal serum. Fg was detected only in the alpha-granules of MK grown in normal plasma. Similar results were observed with malignant MK, whose maturation was independent of the culture conditions. In conclusion, this study brings immunocytochemical evidence that vWF and TSP are synthesized by immature MK, whereas Fg appears later in the MK alpha-granules and its expression is dependent of the presence of an exogenous Fg source.

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