The sequential changes in the three-dimensional organization of the filamentous components of human platelets following surface activation were investigated in whole-mount preparations. Examination of intact and Triton-extracted platelets by high voltage electron microscopy provides morphological evidence of increased polymerization of actin into the filamentous form and an increased organization of the cytoskeletal elements after activation. The structure of resting platelets consists of the circumferential band of microtubules and a small number of microfilaments randomly arranged throughout a dense cytoplasmic matrix. Increased spreading is accompanied by cytoskeletal reorganization resulting in the development of distinct ultrastructural zones including the peripheral web, the outer filamentous zone, the "trabecular-like" inner filamentous zone, and the granulomere . These zones are present only in well-spread platelets during the late stages of surface activation and are retained following Triton extraction. Extraction of the less stable cytoplasmic components provides additional information about the underlying structure and filament interactions within each zone.