This study evaluates the structural organization of the cytoskeleton within unactivated, discoid platelets. Previously, such studies have been difficult to interpret because of the ease with which platelets are stimulated, the sensitivity of actin filaments to cell extraction buffers, and the general problem of preserving actin filaments with conventional fixatives, compounded by the density of the cytoplasm in the platelet. In this study we have employed a new fixative containing lysine, which protects actin filaments against damage during fixation and thin-section processing. We used thick (0.25-micron) sections and conventional thin sections of extracted cells (fixed and lysed simultaneously by the addition of 1% Triton X-100 to the initial fixative) as well as thin sections of whole cells to examine three preparations of human platelets: discoid platelets washed by sedimentation; discoid platelets isolated by gel filtration; and circulating platelets collected by dripping blood directly from a vein into fixative. In all of these preparations, long, interwoven actin filaments were observed within the platelet and were particularly concentrated beneath the plasma membrane. These filaments appeared to be linked at irregular intervals to the membrane and to each other via short, approximately 20- to 50-nm-long cross-links of variable width. Although most filaments were outside the circumferential band of microtubules and the cisternae of the open canalicular system, individual filaments dipped down into the cytoplasm and were found between the microtubules and in association with other membranes. The ease with which single actin filaments can be seen in the dense cytoplasm of the human platelet after lysine/aldehyde fixation suggests the great potential of this new fixative for other cells.

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