Affinity purified anticardiolipin antibodies (ACLA) raised in rabbits showed cross-reactivities with various negatively charged phospholipids as shown by both the solid phase enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and inhibition studies. In ELISA, ACLA showed strong cross-reactivity to both sphingomyelin (SM) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), but the inhibition studies showed that ACLA failed to bind the aqueous suspensions of SM, PE, and PE/PC (1:1). ACLA bound to resting gel-filtered human platelets (GFP) as shown by both inhibition study and flow cytofluorometric analysis. Western blotting procedure showed that ACLA strongly cross-reacted to an 80-Kd plasma membrane protein. ACLA activated platelet response in a concentration-dependent manner. At less than 10 micrograms/mL, ACLA induced both platelet shape change to spiculate irregular forms as shown by scanning electron microscopy and the phosphorylation of 20-Kd protein. ACLA at more than 10 micrograms/mL caused platelet aggregation and secretion. The aggregation was inhibited by EDTA; aspirin; antimycin A plus 2-deoxyglucose; PGE1; and the F(ab')2 fragment of ACLA. It was not inhibited by monoclonal antibody to Fc receptor (MoAb FcR2). The biochemical events of ACLA-induced platelet response involved the elevation of (1) thromboxane A2 formation, (2) cytosolic free calcium ion concentration ([Ca2+]i), and (3) 47-Kd protein phosphorylation. In addition, the subaggregatory concentration of ACLA showed synergistic platelet activation with that concentration of thrombin, collagen, and epinephrine. The study showed the mechanism involved in ACLA-induced platelet responses.