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Semin Thromb Hemost. 1995;21(2):146-51.

Flow cytometric detection of activated platelets: comparison of determining shape change, fibrinogen binding, and P-selectin expression.

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  • 1Institute for Medical Laboratory Diagnostics, Klinikum Karlsruhe, Germany.


Platelet activation plays an important role in the pathomechanisms of arterial vascular disorders including stroke, peripheral arterial disease (PAD), and myocardial infarction. Circulating activated platelets may be useful markers of local thrombotic events occurring in these diseases. Using flow cytometry circulating activated platelets can be detected by determining: 1. the platelets' shape change on the basis of the different light scatter properties of discocytes and spherocytes, 2. the expression of platelet bound fibrinogen or conformation specific neoantigens on fibrinogen and on its platelet receptor, and 3. the exposure of granule membrane proteins such as P-selectin as a result of platelet secretion. The concentration-effect relationships were determined for the ADP and U46619 induced shape change, fibrinogen binding, and expression of P-selectin. The EC50 for the shape change was 4 times lower than the EC50 for the fibrinogen binding and 29 times lower than the EC50 for the expression of P-selectin. These data clearly demonstrate that the shape change is a more sensitive indicator of platelet activation in vitro than fibrinogen binding or P-selectin expression. Both the shape change and fibrinogen binding were reversible, whereas the expression of P-selectin was irreversible upon stimulation. Reversibility of the shape change may be responsible for the fact that in patients with stroke or PAD the fraction of discocytes did not differ from controls, whereas more than 80% of them revealed a significantly higher fraction of P-selectin positive platelets. Thus the determination of the P-selectin expression reveals a higher diagnostic sensitivity for detecting a platelet activation in vivo than the determination of the shape change.

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