Platelet alpha-granules: basic biology and clinical correlates

Blood Rev. 2009 Jul;23(4):177-89. doi: 10.1016/j.blre.2009.04.001. Epub 2009 May 17.


alpha-Granules are essential to normal platelet activity. These unusual secretory granules derive their cargo from both regulated secretory and endocytotic pathways in megakaryocytes. Rare, inheritable defects of alpha-granule formation in mice and man have enabled identification of proteins that mediate cargo trafficking and alpha-granule formation. In platelets, alpha-granules fuse with the plasma membrane upon activation, releasing their cargo and increasing platelet surface area. The mechanisms that control alpha-granule membrane fusion have begun to be elucidated at the molecular level. SNAREs and SNARE accessory proteins that control alpha-granule secretion have been identified. Proteomic studies demonstrate that hundreds of bioactive proteins are released from alpha-granules. This breadth of proteins implies a versatile functionality. While initially known primarily for their participation in thrombosis and hemostasis, the role of alpha-granules in inflammation, atherosclerosis, antimicrobial host defense, wound healing, angiogenesis, and malignancy has become increasingly appreciated as the function of platelets in the pathophysiology of these processes has been defined. This review will consider the formation, release, and physiologic roles of alpha-granules with special emphasis on work performed over the last decade.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Atherosclerosis / metabolism
  • Blood Coagulation / physiology
  • Blood Platelets / enzymology
  • Blood Platelets / immunology
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Blood Platelets / ultrastructure
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / physiology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Megakaryocytes / immunology
  • Megakaryocytes / physiology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology
  • SNARE Proteins / metabolism*
  • Secretory Vesicles / enzymology
  • Secretory Vesicles / genetics
  • Secretory Vesicles / immunology
  • Secretory Vesicles / physiology*
  • Wound Healing / physiology


  • Cytokines
  • SNARE Proteins