Glycoprotein (GP) IIb and IIIa are major constituents of the platelet membrane which are involved in forming the fibrinogen receptor on activated platelets. We used flow cytometry to study the effects of ethylene-diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) on the membrane GPIIb/IIIa complexes of platelets and microparticles, and to study the effects of cations on dissociated GP complexes. Microparticles were detected by both the volume signal and by fluorescence using an FITC-conjugated anti-GPIb antibody (NNKY5–5). When platelets were stimulated with ADP, calcium ionophore A23187, or thrombin, fibrinogen binding to the platelet surface increased markedly. However, fibrinogen binding to microparticles showed little increase in response to such agonists. Microparticle GPIIb/IIIa complexes were dissociated by incubation with EFTA at 37°C but did not reassociate after treatment with divalent cations (Ca2+, Mg2+, and Mn2+) in contrast to platelet GPIIb/IIIa complexes. These results suggest that some interaction of GPIIb/IIIa and linked structures like the platelet cytoskeleton may be involved in the reassociation of dissociated GPIIb and GPIIIa, perhaps explaining the failure of reassociation of microparticle GPIIb/IIIa (i.e., the fibrinogen binding to microparticles). © 1992 Wiley-Liss, Inc.