Recently, we described a method of testing platelet deposition on extracellular matrix under flow conditions. The method was used for assessment of platelet function in various platelet disorders, for monitoring of replacement and anti-platelet therapy. In the present study, we investigated platelet deposition on a polystyrene surface compared with that on extracellular matrix, under defined shear rates, using the original Cone and Plate(let) Analyzer. A correlation of adhesion rate (surface coverage) and aggregate formation (average size) of platelets from normal citrated blood between polystyrene and extracellular matrix was observed. Blocking of von Willebrand factor binding to glycoprotein Ib by a recombinant von Willebrand factor fragment substantially decreased platelet adhesion to both surfaces. Blocking of GPIIb-IIIa by Arg-Gly-Asp-Ser peptide prevented platelet adhesion to the polystyrene while an extensive adhesion of single platelets to extracellular matrix was observed. Furthermore, platelet adhesion to polystyrene but not to extracellular matrix was completely inhibited by platelet inactivation with prostaglandin E(1). Platelets from patients with severe von Willebrand disease yielded very low adhesion to both polystyrene and extracellular matrix. The addition of von Willebrand factor to the blood of these patients or pre-coating of polystyrene surface with von Willebrand factor restored the ability of platelets to adhere and aggregate on the surface. Platelets from patients with Glanzmann's thrombasthenia and afibrinogenemia adhered to extracellular matrix (with defective aggregate formation), while they failed to adhere to the polystyrene. Fibrinogen added to afibrinogenemia blood or pre-coating of the polystyrene with fibrinogen restored the ability of platelets to adhere and aggregate on the surface. In conclusion, the polystyrene surface, like extracellular matrix, can be used to assess platelet function disorders taking in account that platelet deposition on polystyrene under flow is absolutely dependent on platelet activation and on the presence of fibrinogen, von Willebrand factor, and their receptors.