Advances in Platelet Subpopulation Research

Front Cardiovasc Med. 2019 Sep 13:6:138. doi: 10.3389/fcvm.2019.00138. eCollection 2019.


Although lacking a nucleus, platelets are increasingly recognized not only for their complexity, but also for their diversity. Some 50 years ago platelet subpopulations were characterized by size and density, and these characteristics were thought to reflect platelet aging. Since, our knowledge of platelet heterogeneity has grown to recognize that differences in platelet biochemistry and function exist. This includes the identification of vanguard and follower platelets, platelets with differing procoagulant ability including "COAT-platelets" which enhance procoagulant protein retention on their surface, and most recently, the identification of platelet subpopulations with a differential ability to generate and respond to nitric oxide. Hence, in this mini-review, we summarize the current knowledge of platelet subpopulation diversity focusing on their physical, biochemical, and functional heterogeneity. In addition, we review how platelet subpopulations may change between health and disease and how differences among platelets may influence response to anti-platelet therapy. Finally, we look forward and discuss some of the future directions and challenges for this growing field of platelet research.

Keywords: COAT-platelets; eNOS-based platelet subpopulations; hemostasis; platelet subpopulations; thrombosis; vanguard and follower platelets.

Publication types

  • Review