Previous studies indicated a correlation between the formation of EDTA- resistant (irreversible) platelet-fibrinogen interactions and platelet cytoskeleton formation. The present study explored the direct association of membrane-bound fibrinogen with the Triton X-100 (Sigma Chemical Co, St Louis, MO) insoluble cytoskeleton of aspirin-treated, gel-filtered platelets, activated but not aggregated with 20 mumol/L adenosine diphosphate (ADP) or 150 mU/mL human thrombin (THR) when bound fibrinogen had become resistant to dissociation by EDTA. Conversion of exogenous 125I-fibrinogen to fibrin was prevented by adding Gly-Pro-Arg and neutralizing THR with hirudin before initiating binding studies. After 60 minutes at 22 degrees C, the cytoskeleton of ADP-treated platelets contained 20% +/- 12% (mean +/- SD, n = 14) of membrane-bound 125I-fibrinogen, representing 10% to 50% of EDTA- resistant fibrinogen binding. The THR-activated cytoskeleton contained 45% +/- 15% of platelet bound fibrinogen, comprising 80% to 100% of EDTA-resistant fibrinogen binding. 125I-fibrinogen was not recovered with platelet cytoskeletons if binding was inhibited by the RGDS peptide, excess unlabeled fibrinogen, or disruption of the glycoprotein (GP) IIb-IIIa complex by EDTA-treatment. Both development of EDTA- resistant fibrinogen binding and fibrinogen association with the cytoskeleton were time dependent and reached maxima 45 to 60 minutes after fibrinogen binding to stimulated platelets. Although a larger cytoskeleton formed after platelet stimulation with thrombin as compared with ADP, no change in cytoskeleton composition was noted with development of EDTA-resistant fibrinogen binding. Examination of platelet cytoskeletons using monoclonal antibodies, sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and Western blotting showed the presence of only traces of GP IIb-IIIa in the cytoskeletons of resting platelets, with no detectable increases after platelet activation or development of EDTA-resistant fibrinogen binding. These data suggest that GP IIb-IIIa-mediated fibrinogen binding to activated platelets is accompanied by time-dependent alterations in platelet- fibrinogen interactions leading to the GP IIb-IIIa independent association between bound fibrinogen and the platelet cytoskeleton.