The contribution of platelets to the process of atherosclerosis remains unclear. Here, we show in vivo that platelets adhere to the vascular endothelium of the carotid artery in ApoE/ mice before the development of manifest atherosclerotic lesions. Platelet–endothelial cell interaction involved both platelet glycoprotein (GP)Ibα and GPIIb-IIIa. Platelet adhesion to the endothelium coincides with inflammatory gene expression and preceded atherosclerotic plaque invasion by leukocytes. Prolonged blockade of platelet adhesion in ApoE/ mice profoundly reduced leukocyte accumulation in the arterial intima and attenuated atherosclerotic lesion formation in the carotid artery bifurcation, the aortic sinus, and the coronary arteries. These findings establish the platelet as a major player in initiation of the atherogenetic process.

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