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Blood Rev. 1993 Mar;7(1):52-62.

Platelet alpha-granules.

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Rayne Institute, St. Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.


Platelets contain a vast number of biologically active molecules within cytoplasmic granules which are classified according to their respective distinct ultrastructures, densities and content. The alpha-granule is a unique secretory organelle in that it exhibits further compartmentalization and acquires its protein content via two distinct mechanisms: (1) biosynthesis predominantly at the megakaryocyte (MK) level (with some vestigial platelet synthesis) (e.g. platelet factor 4) and (2) endocytosis and pinocytosis at both the MK and circulating platelet levels (e.g. fibrinogen (Fg) and IgG). The currently known list of alpha-granular proteins continues to enlarge and includes many adhesive proteins (e.g. Fg, von Willebrand factor (vWf) and thrombospodin (TSP)), plasma proteins (e.g. IgG and albumin), cellular mitogens (e.g. platelet derived growth factor and TGF beta), coagulation factors (e.g. factor V) and protease inhibitors (e.g. alpha 2-macroglobulin and alpha 2-antiplasmin). More recently the inner lining of the alpha-granule unit membrane has been demonstrated to contain a number of physiologically important receptors including glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (alpha IIb beta 3) and P-selectin. The alpha-granules originate from small precursor granules which can be observed budding from the trans-Golgi network within the platelet precursor cell the MK. During MK maturation the alpha-granules become very prominent and are ultimately packaged into platelets during thrombopoiesis. The alpha-granular contents are destined for release during platelet activation at sites of vessel wall injury and thus play an important role in haemostasis, inflammation, ultimate wound repair and in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis.

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