Platelets exposed to shear stress aggregate in the absence of exogenously added agonists, utilizing distinct platelet membrane receptors and ligands depending upon the level of shear stress applied. Using a modified cone and plate type viscometer, we previously demonstrated that, under low shear stress (18 dyn/cm2), aggregation is mediated by platelet membrane glycoprotein (GP) IIb-IIIa and fibrinogen, whereas aggregation induced by high shear stress (108 dyn/cm2) requires the binding of von Willebrand factor (vWF) to both GPIb-IX and GPIIb-IIIa (Ikeda, Y., M. Handa, K. Kawano, T. Kamata, M. Murata, Y. Araki, H. Anbo, Y. Kawai, K. Watanabe, I. Itagaki, et al. 1991. J. Clin. Invest. 87:1234-1240). Here we report that vWF- dependent aggregation occurs under low shear stress in citrated platelet- rich plasma (PRP) from two types of congenital bleeding disorders, platelet- type von Willebrand disease (vWD) and type IIB vWD, in both of which ristocetin-induced aggregation is known to be heightened. Aggregation induced by low shear stress was enhanced in both types of disorders compared to normal controls, and the enhancement was completely abolished by anti-vWF monoclonal antibody NMC-4, which blocks the GPIb-binding site on vWF. Under high shear stress, the extent of maximal aggregation was not different between controls and the patient groups although maximal aggregation was reached much more quickly in the latter. When citrated PRP was exposed to a gradient of shear stress (6 to 108 dyn/cm2 over a 5-min period), vWF- dependent aggregation, as judged from the inhibitory effect of NMC-4, first occurred at 14 dyn/cm2 in platelet-type vWD and at 10-12 dyn/cm2 in type IIB vWD, as compared with more than 81±20.1 dyn/cm2 in control platelets. These results suggest that an abnormality in either vWF or GPIb-IX triggers the aggregation-inducing interaction of the two molecules under low shear stress, which might explain the intravascular platelet clumping, that presumably underlies the thrombocytopenia observed in these bleeding disorders.
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