The extent of actin polymerization in unstimulated, discoid platelets was measured by DNase I inhibition assay in Triton X-100 lysates of platelets washed at 37 degrees C by gel filtration, or in Triton X-100 lysates of platelets washed at ambient temperatures by centrifugation in the presence of prostacyclin. About 40% of the actin in the discoid platelets obtained by either method existed as filaments. These filaments could be visualized by electron microscopy of thin sections. Similar results were obtained when the actin filament content of discoid platelets was measured by sedimentation of filaments from Triton X-100 lysates at high g forces (145,000 g for 45 min). However, few of these filaments sedimented at the lower g forces often used to isolate networks of actin filaments from cell extracts. These results indicate that actin filaments in discoid cells are not highly crosslinked. Platelets isolated by centrifugation in the absence of prostacyclin were not discoid, but were instead irregular with one or more pseudopodia. These platelets also contained approximately 40-50% of their actin in a filamentous form; many of these filaments sedimented at low g forces, however, indicating that they were organized into networks. The discoid shape of these centrifuged platelets could be restored by incubating them for 1-3 h at 37 degrees C, which resulted in the reversal of filament organization. High g forces were then required for the sedimentation of the actin. Approximately 80-90% of the actin in platelets washed at 4 degrees C was filamentous; this high actin filament content could be attributed to actin polymerization during the preparation of the platelets at low temperatures. These studies show that platelet activation involves mechanisms for the structural reorganization of existing filaments, in addition to those previously described for mediating actin polymerization.

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