We have previously described a stimulus-specific defect in platelet aggregation in polycythaemia vera (PV) after stimulation with surface receptor dependent agonists such as platelet activating factor (PAF). In contrast, responses to phorbol myristate acetate (PMA) were normal. We now report that after PAF stimulation, using flow cytometry, the amount of fibrinogen bound to its receptor was significantly lower in PV platelets with a median MFI of 6.0 (range 4.1-17.3) compared to controls, 12.8 (range 8-21.3; n=11; p<0.01). We found no evidence of preactivation of PV platelets. Quantitative analysis of GPIIIa gave a significantly lower number of GPIIIa on resting PV platelets, 14300 subunits of GPIIIa (range 8500-15500) vs. 19800 for controls (range 13400-26800; n=12; p<0.01). Both patients and controls increased their number of receptors on the cell surface after stimulation with PAF and PMA, but the significant difference in the number of receptors per cell remained. Indirect evaluation of PAF receptor function showed that activation of CD 62 did not differ in PV and controls after PAF stimulation. Additionally, although the basal level of serotonin in platelet-rich plasma was significantly lower in PV, there was a threefold increase of the basal level after stimulation with PAF for both PV and control platelets, also indicating a normal interaction of PAF with its receptor. Although our results indicate both an impaired PAF induced aggregation in PV and a lower number of GPIIb/IIIa complexes on single platelets, whether these phenomena are related remains uncertain.