Platelet Biogenesis in the Lung Circulation

Mark Looney


Platelets are indispensable in hemostasis, thrombosis, and immune responses. In humans, billions of platelets are produced each day from megakaryocytes, however the mechanisms of mature platelet production are incompletely understood. Megakaryocytes are produced in the bone marrow and have been visualized to communicate with the bone marrow sinusoids to release proplatelet fragments. Megakaryocytes have also been found in other tissues, including the lung, but the function of megakaryocytes in these locations is unclear. Historical data indicate that the lung may be a site of platelet biogenesis. The concentration of megakaryocytes in the blood exiting the lung is much lower than the blood entering the lung (implying filtering) and conversely, platelet counts are higher in blood draining from the lungs. Additionally, when the lung circulation in entirely bypassed, megakaryocytes accumulate in the blood and there is a high incidence of thrombocytopenia. However, direct proof of platelet biogenesis in the lung is lacking. We used lung intravital microscopy combined with fluorescently labeled mouse strains and directly visualized intravascular megakaryocytes releasing platelets in the lung circulation. We also visualized megakaryocytes in the bone marrow and spleen releasing proplatelet fragments, and megakaryocyte migration in toto from the bone marrow, which are presumably the source material for lung platelet production. The megakaryocyte-releasing events in the lung were quantified and represent at least half of the total platelet production in mice, which can be increased by the application of thrombopoietin. We also observed a much larger extravascular pool of megakaryocytes in the lung that were not platelet generating as observed by lung intravital imaging. The function of these lung-resident megakaryocytes is unknown, but RNA-Seq data points to a potential role in lung immunity. Orthotopic, single-lung transplantation experiments into thrombocytopenic and hematopoietic progenitor-deficient animals (c-mpl-/-) revealed that peripheral blood platelet counts and bone marrow hematopoietic progenitors could be fully reconstituted by the lung transplant procedure implying the presence of hematopoietic progenitors in the mouse lung. Indeed, these progenitors were directly detected in the extravascular lung and purified populations of hematopoietic progenitors in the lung could correct thrombocytopenia in c-mpl-/-animals. Finally, the lung transplant procedure produced donor-derived chimerism of other hematopoietic lineages such as neutrophils and lymphocytes. We conclude that the lung has significant hematopoietic potential including being a major site of platelet biogenesis.

Disclosures No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

  • * Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.