Received May 14, 2001
Platelets actively participate in regulating thrombin production following physical or chemical injury to blood vessels. Injury to blood vessels initiates activation of the large numbers of platelets that appear in the subendothelium where they become exposed to tissue factor and to molecules adhesive for platelets and normally found in the extracellular matrix. The complex of plasma factor VIIa with extravascular tissue factor both initiates and localizes thrombin production on platelets and on extravascular cells. Thrombin production at these sites in turn enhances platelet activation and the subsequent hemostatic plug formation to minimize bleeding. Thrombin production and platelet activation also initiate the process of wound healing requiring thrombin-dependent cell activation and platelet-dependent formation of new blood vessels (angiogenesis). Activated platelets release from their storage granules several proteins and other factors that regulate local thrombin formation and the responses of blood vessel cells to injury to assure hemostasis and effective wound healing. Failure to localize and adequately regulate thrombin production and/or platelet activation can have pathological consequences, including the development and propagation of atherosclerosis and enhancement of tumor development. The primary basis for the pathological consequences of the failure to adequately regulate thrombin production is that the multi-functional thrombin activates several types of cells to initiate their mitogenesis. Mitogenesis precedes many of the undesirable consequences of poorly regulated thrombin production and platelet activation. In addition, activated platelets release a variety of products which influence the functions of several cell types to the extent that inadequate regulation of platelet activation (by excessive thrombin production) could contribute to the pathogenesis of acute and chronic arterial thrombosis and to tumor development. Activated platelets participate in tumor development by releasing several factors that positively (and negatively) regulate blood vessel formation.
KEY WORDS: platelets, thrombin, blood coagulation, hemostasis, arterial thrombosis, angiogenesis