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Circ Res. 2011 May 13;108(10):1284-97. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.110.233056.

Microparticles in hemostasis and thrombosis.

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Division of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, McAllister Heart Institute, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


Blood contains microparticles (MPs) derived from a variety of cell types, including platelets, monocytes, and endothelial cells. In addition, tumors release MPs into the circulation. MPs are formed from membrane blebs that are released from the cell surface by proteolytic cleavage of the cytoskeleton. All MPs are procoagulant because they provide a membrane surface for the assembly of components of the coagulation protease cascade. Importantly, procoagulant activity is increased by the presence of anionic phospholipids, particularly phosphatidylserine (PS), and the procoagulant protein tissue factor (TF), which is the major cellular activator of the clotting cascade. High levels of platelet-derived PS(+) MPs are present in healthy individuals, whereas the number of TF(+), PS(+) MPs is undetectable or very low. However, levels of PS(+), TF(+) MPs are readily detected in a variety of diseases, and monocytes appear to be the primary cellular source. In cancer, PS(+), TF(+) MPs are derived from tumors and may serve as a useful biomarker to identify patients at risk for venous thrombosis. This review will summarize our current knowledge of the role of procoagulant MPs in hemostasis and thrombosis.

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