Channels of the surface-connected, open canalicular system (OCS) of human platelets serve as the pathway for transport of substances into the cells and as conduits for the discharge of alpha granule products secreted during the platelet release reaction. The purpose of the present study was to determine if both functions of the OCS can take place simultaneously. Suspensions of washed platelets were exposed to thrombin at 1 U/ml for 5, 60, or 180 seconds in the presence of fibrinogen molecules coupled to particles of colloidal gold (Fgn/Au). The samples were fixed in a low concentration of glutaraldehyde and embedded in L.R. White resin to preserve antigenicity. Thin sections were exposed to a rabbit polyclonal antibody to human fibrinogen followed by an anti-rabbit IgG coupled to 5-nm gold beads. Thrombin caused Fgn/Au particles to bind to platelets and enter channels of the surface-connected OCS. Endogenous fibrinogen detected by immunogold 5-nm beads were localized to alpha granules in resting platelets and 5 seconds after thrombin stimulation. At 60 seconds and 3 minutes Fgn/Au particles were present in swollen alpha granules, as well as OCS channels. Fibrinogen gold beads were evident in alpha granules and OCS channels connected to the platelet surface. The 18- to 20-nm Fgn/Au particles were in the same channels of the OCS as fibrinogen gold beads. The OCS is a final common pathway for uptake of particulates and discharge of secretory products in thrombin-activated human platelets.