Host defense role of platelets: engulfment of HIV andStaphylococcus aureus occurs in a specific subcellular compartment and is enhanced by platelet activation

Tayebeh Youssefian, Arnaud Drouin, Jean-Marc Massé, Josette Guichard and Elisabeth M. Cramer


Platelets can bind and phagocytose infectious microorganisms and so enable their transport for a prolonged time. To investigate the subcellular events of these interactions, platelets were incubated either with Staphylococcus aureus or with HIV and analyzed by electron microscopy (EM) and immuno-EM. HIV and bacteria internalization occurred exclusively within platelets showing morphological evidence of activation. Platelet activation enhanced the degree of bacterial internalization. Immunolabeling revealed that the engulfing vacuoles and the open canalicular system (OCS) were composed of distinct antigens. The engulfing vacuoles eventually became the site of prominent α-granule release. In platelets incubated with HIV, characteristic endocytic vacuoles were identified close to the plasma membrane, tightly surrounding 1 or 2 HIV particles. Virus particles were also located within the OCS. Immunogold labeling for the viral core protein p24 confirmed the presence of HIV within platelets. Finally, examination of platelets from a patient with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome and high viremia suggested that HIV endocytosis may also occur in vivo.

  • Submitted December 6, 2001.
  • Accepted February 1, 2002.
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