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Keywords:

  • apoptosis;
  • cell activation;
  • membrane microvesicles;
  • thrombosis

Summary.  Microparticles are fragments released from the plasma membrane of most stimulated or apoptotic cells. After having long been considered inert cell debris, of possible value for the diagnosis of cell activation or death, there is increasing documented evidence that they can interact with neighboring or remote cells, in which case they acquire a pathophysiologic potential. On the one hand, deleterious microparticles stemming from activated cells can elicit an adverse response from other cells, themselves undergoing membrane vesiculation, leading to pathogenic amplification. On the other hand, since they are thought to reflect a balance between cell stimulation, proliferation, and death, it is conceivable that they are discerned as sensors for the maintenance of homeostasis in multicellular organisms. Because vesiculation is an integral part of the plasma-membrane remodeling process, with the transverse migration of procoagulant phosphatidylserine from the cytoplasmic to the exoplasmic leaflet as the central event, the majority of released microparticles are thought to fulfill a hemostatic function under physiologic conditions. This is particularly true when they originate from platelets, with possible deviation towards thrombosis when produced in excess. Owing to these procoagulant properties, the hemostasis laboratory offers the most appropriate tools for the assessment of the in vivo significance of microparticles.