Previous studies have demonstrated that a high level of shear stress can produce platelet aggregation without the addition of any agonist. We investigated whether high shear stress could cause both platelet aggregation and shedding of microparticles from the platelet plasma membrane. A coneplate viscometer was used to apply shear stress and microparticle formation was measured by flow cytometry. It was found that microparticle formation increased as the duration of shear stress increased. Both microparticles and the remnant platelets showed the exposure of procoagulant activity on their surfaces. Investigation of the mechanisms involved in shear-dependent microparticle generation showed that binding of von Willebrand factor (vWF) to platelet glycoprotein lb, influx of extracellular calcium, and activation of platelet calpain were required to generate microparticles under high shear stress conditions. Activation of protein kinase C (PKC) promoted shear-dependent microparticle formation. Epinephrine did not influence microparticle formation, although it enhanced platelet aggregation by high shear stress. These findings suggest the possibility that local generation of microparticles in atherosclerotic arteries, the site that pathologically high shear stress could occur, may contribute to arterial thrombosis by providing and expanding a catalytic surface for the coagulation cascade.

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