Plasmin exposure modulates platelet aggregation responses, but a direct effect of plasmin on the platelet fibrinogen receptor, glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (GPIIb/IIIa), has never been conclusively shown in a plasma milieu. To examine this issue, we incubated platelets in platelet-rich plasma with plasmin and measured the effect of this treatment on platelet aggregation, fibrinogen binding, and the structural integrity of GPIIb/IIIa. Plasmin treatment reduced maximal reversible fibrinogen binding in a dose-dependent fashion, and this reduction in binding was accompanied by a correlative reduction in the maximal rate of aggregation. Immunoblots performed with polyclonal antibodies against GPIIb/IIIa showed that GPIIIa had been cleaved by plasmin, but this cleavage was detected only after subsequent degradation of the solubilized GPIIb/IIIa with Staphylococcus aureus V8 (Glu-C) endoprotease. Peptide sequence analysis showed that cleavage occurred at the lys444-pro445 bond in the first cysteine-rich repeat domain of GPIIIa a unique proteolytic event observed only in the presence of plasma fibrinogen. These observations suggest that plasmin modifies GPIIIa by a unique proteolytic event in plasma that is dependent on fibrinogen binding and, consequently, is accompanied by significant reductions in fibrinogen binding and aggregation response.

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