Platelets store a plethora of different molecules within their granules, modulating numerous pathways, not only in coagulation, but also in angiogenesis, wound healing, and inflammatory diseases. These molecules get rapidly released upon activation and therefore represent an easily accessible indirect marker for platelet activation. Accurate analysis of platelet-derived molecules in the plasma requires appropriate anticoagulation to avoid in vitro activation and subsequent degranulation of platelets, potentially causing artificially high levels and masking biologically relevant differences within translational research studies. However, there is still enormous heterogeneity among anticoagulants used to prevent unwanted platelet activation, so that plasma levels reported for platelet granule contents range over several orders of magnitude. To address this problem and to define the most robust method of plasma preparation to avoid in vitro platelet activation during processing, we compared plasma concentrations of the three platelet-stored factors thrombospondin (TSP-1), platelet factor 4 (PF4), and soluble P-selectin (sCD62P) between human blood samples anticoagulated with either citrate-theophylline-adenosine-dipyridamole (CTAD), acid-citrate-dextrose (ACD), citrate, ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA) or heparin. Additionally, we assessed the effect of storage temperature and time between blood drawing and sample processing within the differentially anticoagulated samples. Our data strongly support the use of CTAD as anticoagulant for determining plasma concentrations of platelet-stored molecules, as anticoagulation with heparin or EDTA led to a 12.4- or 8.3-fold increase in plasma levels of PF4, respectively. Whereas ACD was similar effective as CTAD, citrate only showed comparable PF4 plasma levels when plasma was kept at 4°C. Moreover, blood sampling with CTAD as anticoagulant resulted in the most reproducible values, even when samples were processed at ambient temperature or after storage over 6 hours. In the latter case, anticoagulation with heparin or EDTA led to artificially high plasma levels indicative of in vitro platelet activation. Therefore, we want to raise scientific awareness for choosing CTAD as optimal anticoagulant for the detection of platelet-stored molecules in plasma.
Mussbacher, M., Schrottmaier, W. C., Salzmann, M., Brostjan, C., Schmid, J. A., Starlinger, P., & Assinger, A. (2017). Optimized plasma preparation is essential to monitor platelet-stored molecules in humans. PLoS ONE, 12(12). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188921