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Blood. 2008 May 1;111(9):4605-16. doi: 10.1182/blood-2007-10-118844. Epub 2008 Jan 29.

Visualization of microtubule growth in living platelets reveals a dynamic marginal band with multiple microtubules.

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Translational Medicine Division, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


The marginal band of microtubules maintains the discoid shape of resting blood platelets. Although studies of platelet microtubule coil structure conclude that it is composed of a single microtubule, no investigations of its dynamics exist. In contrast to previous studies, permeabilized platelets incubated with GTP-rhodamine-tubulin revealed tubulin incorporation at 7.9 (+/- 1.9) points throughout the coil, and anti-EB1 antibodies stained 8.7 (+/- 2.0) sites, indicative of multiple free microtubules. To pursue this result, we expressed the microtubule plus-end marker EB3-GFP in megakaryocytes and examined its behavior in living platelets released from these cells. Time-lapse microscopy of EB3-GFP in resting platelets revealed multiple assembly sites within the coil and a bidirectional pattern of assembly. Consistent with these findings, tyrosinated tubulin, a marker of newly assembled microtubules, localized to resting platelet microtubule coils. These results suggest that the resting platelet marginal band contains multiple highly dynamic microtubules of mixed polarity. Analysis of microtubule coil diameters in newly formed resting platelets indicates that microtubule coil shrinkage occurs with aging. In addition, activated EB3-GFP-expressing platelets exhibited a dramatic increase in polymerizing microtubules, which travel outward and into filopodia. Thus, the dynamic microtubules associated with the marginal band likely function during both resting and activated platelet states.

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