Background: Shear stress-induced platelet aggregation may initiate arterial thrombosis at sites of pathological blood flow. Shear stress-induced platelet aggregation is mediated by von Willebrand factor (vWf) binding to platelet membrane glycoprotein (GP) Ib and GP IIb/IIIa. Tissue-type plasminogen activator (TPA) induces thrombolysis in coronary arteries through the local generation of plasmin. Plasmin also proteolyses GP Ib and plasma vWf.
Methods and results: Because these effects could mitigate shear stress-induced platelet aggregation, we investigated the effect of fibrinolytic agents on platelet aggregation in response to a pathological shear stress of 120 dynes/cm2 generated by a cone-and-platen rotational viscometer. Plasmin inhibited shear stress-induced aggregation of washed platelets, and this was associated with a decrease in GP Ib. TPA, at concentrations > or = 2000 IU/mL, significantly inhibited shear stress-induced platelet aggregation of platelet-rich plasma without a decrease in platelet GP Ib. In plasma-platelet mixing experiments, we determined that the TPA effect was localized to plasma. Purified vWf multimer degradation by TPA (in the presence of exogenous plasminogen) was associated with the loss of the capacity of vWf to support shear stress-induced platelet aggregation.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate that TPA inhibits platelet aggregation in response to pathological shear stress by altering the multimeric composition of vWf. This effect of TPA on shear stress-induced platelet aggregation may contribute, along with fibrinolysis, to the therapeutic effect of TPA in restoring blood flow during acute coronary artery thrombosis.