BACKGROUND - Platelet activation occurs in vivo during pharmacologic thrombolysis and may contribute to recurrent thrombosis. Plasmin does not directly activate platelets except at high concentrations; thus, the mechanisms for platelet activation during thrombolysis remain undefined. Increases in thrombin activity also occur in patients treated with fibrinolytic agents and may contribute to activation of platelets. We have shown that one mechanism for increased thrombin activity is activation of the coagulation system by plasmin.
METHODS AND RESULTS - In the present study we sought to determine whether activation of platelets in response to pharmacologic activation of plasminogen in plasma is due primarily to plasmin or mediated by increased thrombin activity. Platelet-rich citrated plasma (PRP) was recalcified and incubated with 1,000 IU/ml of streptokinase or 1.0 caseinolytic units/ml of plasmin. Concentrations of fibrinopeptide A, a marker of thrombin activity, increased markedly over 10 minutes in plasma incubated with streptokinase or plasmin, but not in PRP incubated without plasminogen activator. Platelet activation characterized by the secretion of 14C-serotonin occurred within 2-4 minutes after thrombin activity increased. In stirred recalcified PRP, platelet aggregation was accelerated from 3.6 +/- 0.5 to 2.5 +/- 0.3 minutes (p less than 0.01) when incubated with 1,000 IU/ml of streptokinase. Leupeptin and aprotinin, inhibitors of plasmin activity, markedly attenuated platelet activation in response to pharmacologic activation of plasminogen. However, inhibition of thrombin with heparin, hirudin, or D-Phe-D-Pro-L-Arg-chloromethylketone was more effective in inhibiting the acceleration of platelet activation induced by plasminogen activation, despite the elaboration of plasmin activity.
CONCLUSIONS - Activation of platelets during coronary thrombolysis may be due in part to increased procoagulant activity induced by plasminogen activation as well as other factors that promote platelet activation in vivo.