Platelet and Megakaryocyte Roles in Innate and Adaptive Immunity

Circ Res. 2022 Jan 21;130(2):288-308. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.121.319821. Epub 2022 Jan 20.


Classically, platelets have been described as the cellular blood component that mediates hemostasis and thrombosis. This important platelet function has received significant research attention for >150 years. The immune cell functions of platelets are much less appreciated. Platelets interact with and activate cells of all branches of immunity in response to pathogen exposures and infection, as well as in response to sterile tissue injury. In this review, we focus on innate immune mechanisms of platelet activation, platelet interactions with innate immune cells, as well as the intersection of platelets and adaptive immunity. The immune potential of platelets is dependent in part on their megakaryocyte precursor providing them with the molecular composition to be first responders and immune sentinels in initiating and orchestrating coordinated pathogen immune responses. There is emerging evidence that extramedullary megakaryocytes may be immune differentiated compared with bone marrow megakaryocytes, but the physiological relevance of immunophenotypic differences are just beginning to be explored. These concepts are also discussed in this review. The immune functions of the megakaryocyte/platelet lineage have likely evolved to coordinate the need to repair a vascular breach with the simultaneous need to induce an immune response that may limit pathogen invasion once the blood is exposed to an external environment.

Keywords: blood platelets; complement system proteins; extracellular traps; immunity; megakaryocyte; thrombosis; toll-like receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptive Immunity*
  • Animals
  • Blood Platelets / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate*
  • Megakaryocytes / immunology*