After the intravenous infusion of N-hydroxysuccinimido biotin into dogs, 80.6% +/- 9.7% (n = 5) of platelets were covalently labeled with biotin. The in vivo survival of the biotinylated platelets was monitored by flow cytometry and was normal as compared with previous reports for dog platelets. The ability of the biotinylated platelets to be activated was analyzed by measuring the expression of cell-surface P- selectin after incubation with graded concentrations of thrombin. When P-selectin expression was examined 3 hours after labeling, biotinylated platelets were indistinguishable from the nonlabeled population of platelets, indicating that biotinylation did not adversely affect the cells. On consecutive days after biotinylation, the thrombin dose- response curves for biotinylated and nonbiotinylated platelets were repeated, and as the biotinylated-platelets aged, they became less responsive to thrombin. On days 3, 4, and 5, the thrombin EC50 for the aged, biotinylated platelets as compared with the total population of platelets was 136%, 150%, and 178%, respectively. Increasing age clearly impairs the reactivity of platelets towards thrombin as quantitated by the expression of cell-surface P-selectin.