We investigated the association between low-density lipoprotein (LDL), triglycerides, and platelet activation in 18 patients with hypertension age 41-64 years and 18 with diabetes mellitus aged 43-70 years. Platelet P-selectin positivity and the microparticle level (indicators of activation) were both significantly higher in the diabetics than in healthy controls (P-selectin: 28.0% +/- 7.5% vs. 7.3% +/- 4.2%, P < 0.001; microparticles: 1900 +/- 966 vs. 526 +/- 158/10(4) platelets, P < 0.01). In contrast, there was no significant increase of either parameter in the patients with hypertension. Plasma microparticle levels were also significantly greater in the diabetics with high LDL levels than in those with low LDL levels (2375 +/- 949 vs. 1519 +/- 796/10(4) platelets, P < 0.05), and in those with high rather than low triglyceride levels (2188 +/- 845 vs. 1492 +/- 783/10(4) platelets, P < 0.05). However, platelet positivity for P-selectin was not significantly different between these two subgroups. Microparticle and P-selectin levels both showed no significant difference between the hypertensive patients with high and low LDL or triglyceride levels. These results suggest that platelet-derived microparticles may participate in the development or progression of atherosclerosis in patients with diabetes mellitus.