The clinical manifestations of platelet dense ( delta ) granule defects are easy bruising, as well as epistaxis and bleeding after delivery, tooth extractions and surgical procedures. The observed symptoms may be explained either by a decreased number of granules or by a defect in the uptake/release of granule contents. We have developed a method to study platelet dense granule storage and release. The uptake of the fluorescent marker, mepacrine, into the platelet dense granule was measured using flow cytometry. The platelet population was identified by the size and binding of a phycoerythrin-conjugated antibody against GPIb. Cells within the discrimination frame were analysed for green (mepacrine) fluorescence. Both resting platelets and platelets previously stimulated with collagen and the thrombin receptor agonist peptide SFLLRN was analysed for mepacrine uptake. By subtracting the value for mepacrine uptake after stimulation from the value for uptake without stimulation for each individual, the platelet dense granule release capacity could be estimated. Whole blood samples from 22 healthy individuals were analysed. Mepacrine incubation without previous stimulation gave mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) values of 83+/-6 (mean +/- 1 SD, range 69-91). The difference in MFI between resting and stimulated platelets was 28+/-7 (range 17-40). Six members of a family, of whom one had a known delta -storage pool disease, were analysed. The two members (mother and son) who had prolonged bleeding times also had MFI values disparate from the normal population in this analysis. The values of one daughter with mild bleeding problems but a normal bleeding time were in the lower part of the reference interval.