Treatment of human platelets by EDTA (5 mM at 37 degrees C and pH 7.4 for 30 min) induces ultrastructural morphological changes of the surface-connected canalicular system (SCCS). The first consists in dilations of some portions of the channels, whereas the second is represented by collapse of parts of the canaliculi. The collapsed elements of the EDTA treated SCCS are made up of two parallel limiting membranes and a central striated zone. Some of the EDTA treated platelets form microaggregates, the cohesion of which is apparently due to the appearance of pentalaminar interplatelet structures. EDTA treatment is known to induce an irreversible loss of platelet aggregability which is due to irreversible dissociation of the membrane GPIIb-IIIa complexes. In the present study, we looked for involvement of GPIIb-IIIa in the formation of these pentalaminar structures, and were able to demonstrate that the morphological changes described are in fact directly dependent on the EDTA induced dissociation of GPIIb-IIIa complexes. Indeed, we observed that these changes (a) cannot be induced in type I Glanzmann's thrombasthenia, where GPIIb-IIIa complexes are absent, (b) do not appear when human platelets are preincubated with monoclonal anti-GPIIb-IIIa complex-dependent (CD41a) antibodies, which protect the complex from EDTA induced dissociation, (c) appear only at alkaline pH and at 37 degrees C, which corresponds to the range of pH and temperature where EDTA can dissociate GPIIb-IIIa complexes, (d) are accompanied by the disappearance in fluorescence flow cytometry of the heterodimer complex-dependent epitopes, when using anti-CD41a antibodies and (e) do not appear in rat platelets, where GPIIb-IIIa does not dissociate after EDTA treatment. Furthermore, using gold-labeled mAbs concomitantly with the addition of EDTA, we observed that almost only GPIIb was present in the collapsed regions of the canaliculi. Using double labeling studies with polyclonal anti-GPIIb antibodies coupled to 10 nm gold particles and polyclonal anti-GPIIIa antibodies coupled to 20 nm gold particles, we observed that while both 10 and 20 nm particles were present in the dilated portions of the canaliculi almost only the small particles, coupled to the anti-GPIIb antibodies, labeled the collapsed portions of the SCCS. On Lowicryl thin sections, polyclonal antibodies against GPIIb labeled the central striated zone while both GPIIb and GPIIIa were found in the dilated portions of the SCCS. All these observations lead us to suggest that homopolymers of GPIIb could be responsible for "zipping" of the SCCS.

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