The birth of the platelet

J Thromb Haemost. 2003 Jul;1(7):1580-6. doi: 10.1046/j.1538-7836.2003.00331.x.


Platelets are small subcellular fragments that are formed from the cytoplasm of bone marrow megakaryocytes, which circulate in blood with characteristic discoid shapes. To assemble and release platelets, megakaryocytes follow a maturation program that accumulates in the conversion of the bulk of their cytoplasmic into multiple long processes called proplatelets. A megakaryocyte may protrude as many as 10-20 proplatelets, each which begins as a blunt protrusion that is driven out by microtubule-based forces. With time, these protrusions thin and branch repeatedly. Platelets form only at the ends of proplatelets. As the nascent platelet matures, its content of granules and organelles are delivered as a stream of individual particles moving from the megakaryocyte cell body to the proplatelet tip. Once the platelet has been filled with its content of intracellular materials, a single microtubule approximately 100 micro m in length is rolled into a coil, and the platelet releases into the medium. Platelet formation can be divided into two phases. In the first phase, there is nuclear proliferation to 16-32xN and the enlargement of the megakaryocyte cytoplasm as it is filled with cytoskeletal proteins, platelet specific granules and granule contents and membranous systems. This phase occurs over a period of days and requires induction by megakaryocyte specific growth factors. Proplatelets are extended in the second phase and platelets are released. This phase is completed in hours.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Blood Platelets / cytology
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Megakaryocytes / cytology
  • Models, Biological
  • Tubulin / metabolism


  • Actins
  • Tubulin