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Handb Exp Pharmacol. 2012;(210):3-22. doi: 10.1007/978-3-642-29423-5_1.

Platelets: production, morphology and ultrastructure.

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Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 1 Blackfan Circle, Karp 6, Boston, MA, USA.


Platelets are anucleate, discoid cells, roughly 2-3 μm in diameter that function primarily as regulators of hemostasis, but also play secondary roles in angiogensis and innate immunity. Although human adults contain nearly one trillion platelets in circulation that are turned over every 8-10 days, our understanding of the mechanisms involved in platelet production is still incomplete. Platelets stem from large (30-100 μm) nucleated cells called megakaryocytes that reside primarily in the bone marrow. During maturation megakaryocytes extend long proplatelet elongations into sinusoidal blood vessels from which platelets ultimately release. During this process, platelets develop a number of distinguishable structural elements including: a delimited plasma membrane; invaginations of the surface membrane that form the open canalicular system (OCS); a closed-channel network of residual endoplasmic reticulum that form the dense tubular system (DTS); a spectrin-based membrane skeleton; an actin-based cytoskeletal network; a peripheral band of microtubules; and numerous organelles including α-granules, dense-granules, peroxisomes, lysosomes, and mitochondria. Proplatelet elongation and platelet production is an elaborate and complex process that defines the morphology and ultrastructure of circulating platelets, and is critical in understanding their increasingly numerous and varied biological functions.

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