Mechanisms of platelet clearance and translation to improve platelet storage

M. Edward Quach, Wenchun Chen and Renhao Li


Hundreds of billions of platelets are cleared daily from circulation via efficient and highly regulated mechanisms. These mechanisms may be stimulated by exogenous reagents or environmental changes to accelerate platelet clearance, leading to thrombocytopenia. The interplay between antiapoptotic Bcl-xL and proapoptotic molecules Bax and Bak sets an internal clock for the platelet lifespan, and BH3-only proteins, mitochondrial permeabilization, and phosphatidylserine (PS) exposure may also contribute to apoptosis-induced platelet clearance. Binding of plasma von Willebrand factor or antibodies to the ligand-binding domain of glycoprotein Ibα (GPIbα) on platelets can activate GPIb-IX in a shear-dependent manner by inducing unfolding of the mechanosensory domain therein, and trigger downstream signaling in the platelet including desialylation and PS exposure. Deglycosylated platelets are recognized by the Ashwell-Morell receptor and potentially other scavenger receptors, and are rapidly cleared by hepatocytes and/or macrophages. Inhibitors of platelet clearance pathways, including inhibitors of GPIbα shedding, neuraminidases, and platelet signaling, are efficacious at preserving the viability of platelets during storage and improving their recovery and survival in vivo. Overall, common mechanisms of platelet clearance have begun to emerge, suggesting potential strategies to extend the shelf-life of platelets stored at room temperature or to enable refrigerated storage.

  • Submitted August 2, 2017.
  • Accepted January 28, 2018.
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