Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Health Sciences


Clinical Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Sidney Whiteheart


In addition to their role in hemostasis, platelets appear to contribute to vascular inflammatory diseases. Platelets achieve this through the secretion of various prothrombotic and pro-inflammatory molecules. Platelet secretion is mediated by integral membrane proteins called Soluble NSF Attachment protein REceptors (SNAREs). SNAREs come from both granule/vesicle membranes (v-SNAREs) and target membranes (t-SNAREs) to form a trans-bilayer complex that promotes membrane fusion and subsequent granule cargo release. The work described in this dissertation dissects various, yet related aspects of platelet secretion in both physiological relevant and pathological circumstances.

Atherosclerosis is a leading cause of death in the westernized countries and a major contributor to heart attacks and strokes. Given the potential involvement of platelets in atherosclerosis and previous work from our laboratory showing that VAMP-8 is the primary v-SNARE for platelet secretion, one part of this dissertation focuses on the role of VAMP-8- mediated secretion in atherosclerosis. The data showed that the deletion of VAMP-8 in the ApoE-/- null model of chronic atherosclerosis attenuated plaque development compared to the wild type littermates. Aged (50 week) VAMP-8-/-/ApoE-/- mice showed a reduction in lesion size compared to ApoE-/- controls, as measured by Oil Red-O staining of the plaques in the aortic sinus and by en face analysis of plaques in the aortic arch. These data show that the loss of VAMP-8 attenuates the development of atherosclerotic plaques and suggest that platelet secretion contributes to atherosclerosis.

Considering the vital role of platelet secretion in both physiological and pathological conditions, it is essential to understand how it is regulated. SNARE proteins are controlled by a range of regulatory molecules that affect where, when, and with whom they form trans-bilayer complexes for membrane fusion. One family of such regulators is the Munc18 family: platelets contain three (Munc18a-c). The second part of this dissertation focuses on the role of Munc18b/STXBP2. Mutations in the Munc18b/STXBP2 gene underlie Familial Hemophagocytic Lymphohistocytosis type 5 (FHL5), which is a life- threatening disease caused by dysregulation of the immune system. Platelets from two biallelic FHL5 patients had almost undetectable levels of Munc18b/STXBP2 levels; the levels of Munc18a increased slightly and Munc18c levels were unaffected. Syntaxin 11 levels were affected but the levels of other secretory machinery proteins were normal. Platelet secretion from dense and alpha granule in two biallelic patients and the one heterozygous patient was decreased. The release of serotonin from dense granules, and platelet factor 4 (PF4) from alpha granules was profoundly affected in the biallelic patients and partially affected in the heterozygote heterozygous patient. Lysosome release was affected only from the platelets of the biallelic patients. These data indicate that Munc18b plays a key role in platelet secretion.

Ras is the prototypical member of a family of low molecular weight, GTP-binding proteins. It affects various cellular functions by cycling between an active, guanine triphosphate (GTP) and an inactive guanine diphosphate (GDP) -bound state. Little is known about the role of Ras activation in platelets. The third part of this dissertation focuses on what could be learned about Ras’ role by analyzing platelets from patients with Noonan Syndrome. Specific mutations in the genes encoding elements of Ras signaling pathways are associated with Noonan Syndrome. Platelets from Noonan Syndrome patients with a mutation in kRas (F156V) were analyzed and shown to have a defect in aggregation in response to low levels of agonist. These data suggest that Ras may play a functionally relevant role in platelet activation.

In summary, the experiments presented in investigations of this dissertation support a role for platelet secretion in several pathological conditions and suggest that platelet secretion assays may serve as useful as diagnostic tools for some genetic diseases. In addition, these studies elucidate the importance of understanding the regulation of platelet exocytosis, to drive the development of new antithrombotic therapeutics.

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Hematology Commons