Beyond their traditional role in haemostasis and thrombosis, platelets are increasingly recognised as immune modulatory cells. Activated platelets and platelet-derived microparticles can bind to leukocytes, which stimulates mutual activation and results in rapid, local release of platelet-derived cytokines. Thereby platelets modulate leukocyte effector functions and contribute to inflammatory and immune responses to injury or infection. Platelets enhance leukocyte extravasation, differentiation and cytokine release. Platelet-neutrophil interactions boost oxidative burst, neutrophil extracellular trap formation and phagocytosis and play an important role in host defence. Platelet interactions with monocytes propagate their differentiation into macrophages, modulate cytokine release and attenuate macrophage functions. Depending on the underlying pathology, platelets can enhance or diminish leukocyte cytokine production, indicating that platelet-leukocyte interactions represent a fine balanced system to restrict excessive inflammation during infection. In atherosclerosis, platelet interaction with neutrophils, monocytes and dendritic cells accelerates key steps of atherogenesis by promoting leukocyte extravasation and foam cell formation. Platelet-leukocyte interactions at sites of atherosclerotic lesions destabilise atherosclerotic plaques and promote plaque rupture. Leukocytes in turn also modulate platelet function and production, which either results in enhanced platelet destruction or increased platelet production. This review aims to summarise the key effects of platelet-leukocyte interactions in inflammation, infection and atherosclerosis.
Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Infection; Inflammation; P-selectin; Platelet-leukocyte aggregates; Platelets.