With platelet activation, there is modulation of platelet surface molecule expression. In flow cytometric analyses of in vivo platelet activation, results are often confounded by activation induced in vitro by the preparative procedures. It is particularly important therefore to prevent or retard platelet activation as soon as possible after withdrawal of the blood sample. Taking blood into paraformaldehyde, or fixing the cells with paraformaldehyde as soon as possible after withdrawal, has been employed to prevent platelet activation in vitro, but paraformaldehyde-fixed platelets cannot be further used in functional studies. We investigated the efficacy of Diatube-H, a commercially available combination of platelet antagonists (theophylline, adenosine, and dipyridamole), in preventing or retarding platelet activation in vitro, along with its effects on modulation of platelet membrane glycoproteins (GP) and adhesion molecules. In contrast to blood taken into EDTA, blood taken into Diatube-H vacutainer tubes could be stored at room temperature for up to 4 hr prior to paraformaldehyde fixation without significant in vitro platelet activation, as measured by CD62P, CD63 and modulation of GPIb and GPIIbIIIa surface expression. Hence, paraformaldehyde fixation could be deferred for several hours, permitting transport of samples from distant sites. Studies of thrombin-induced platelet activation indicated that platelets taken into Diatube-H remained functional i.e. were able to be activated. Expression of the CD29, CD49b and CD31 adhesion molecules on the platelet surface was unaffected by storage in Diatube-H. The results suggest that Diatube-H may be a useful reagent for flow cytometric studies of platelets when the samples cannot be processed immediately.