Circulating microparticles: pathophysiology and clinical implications

Blood Rev. 2007 May;21(3):157-71. doi: 10.1016/j.blre.2006.09.001. Epub 2006 Nov 22.


Microparticles (MP) derived from vascular endothelium or circulating blood cells circulate in the peripheral blood. They originate from blebbing and shedding from cell membrane surfaces in physiological and pathological conditions and are present in low concentrations in normal plasma. Increased levels are generated by a number of mechanisms including platelet activation, direct vascular endothelial damage, thrombin activity on the cell surface, C5b-9 activation, and PF4-heparin-antibody interaction. Several techniques are currently used to study the generation and nature of circulating microparticles. In particular, the genesis and role of microparticles, derived from platelets, endothelial cells and monocytes, in sepsis (especially meningococcal-induced), heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), aplastic anaemia, paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria (PNH) and sickle cell disease (SCD) have been well studied, and provide important insights into the underlying diseases. A defect in the ability to form microparticles leads to the severe bleeding disorder of Scott syndrome, which in turn provides a revealing insight into the physiology of coagulation. In addition the complex role of microparticles in vascular and cardiovascular diseases is an area of immense interest, that promises to yield important advances into diagnosis and therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Cells / pathology*
  • Blood Platelets / pathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cell Membrane / pathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Monocytes / pathology
  • Particle Size