We have evaluated the mechanism by which crosslinking human platelet Fc receptor (FcR) for IgG triggers platelet aggregation and the platelet release reaction. Platelet FcR was crosslinked by incubating purified human platelets with anti-FcRII monoclonal antibody and F(ab')2 anti- mouse Ig. The resultant [Ca2+]i increase, monitored by Fura-2 and measured in the absence of extracellular Ca2+, reached a peak of 750 +/- 50 nmol/L. The effects of cyclooxygenase inhibitors, aspirin and indomethacin, and a phospholipase A2 inhibitor, dibromoacetophenone, were examined. Regardless of the inhibitor, at least 25% of the [Ca2+]i increase remained. Thrombin (0.2 U/mL) stimulated an immediate [Ca2+]i increase that reached 1.95 +/- 0.8 mumol/L. The [Ca2+]i increase generated by thrombin was only slightly reduced by these inhibitors. Crosslinking the FcRII of platelets resulted in a fivefold increase in the production of [3H]inositol phosphates, (IP) which, in the absence of extracellular Ca2+ was insensitive to aspirin. The activation of a [Ca2+]i increase along with the measured increases in IP indicate that FcRII crosslinking leads to the activation of phospholipase C (PLC). In contrast to thrombin, platelet activation via FcRII depends to a large extent on arachidonic acid metabolites. However, neither cyclooxygenase nor phospholipase A2 inhibitors completely blocked FcRII-stimulated [Ca2+]i increase. These observations led us to propose that crosslinking of platelet FcRII initially activates PLC.