Platelets are potent antibody- and complement-dependent cytotoxic effector cells. We showed previously that a single platelet can lyse a target cell sensitized with immunoglobulin G (IgG) and complement components up to C3 (C integral of 3b denotes the target cell-bound fragment of complement up to C3; the precise nature of the bound C3 fragment has not been established), and that the complete cytotoxic system capable of specific recognition and lysis resides in platelet membranes. To define the components of platelet membranes required for cytotoxicity, a set of inhibitors of phospholipase A2 (PLA2) that act by different chemical mechanisms was tested. The lytic reaction is blocked at appropriate concentrations of bromophenacylbromide, mepacrine, and manoalide. When platelets are treated with bromophenacylbromide, inhibition of cytolytic activity and that of PLA2 enzymatic activity occur in parallel. Platelets release arachidonate when incubated with target cells bearing IgG and C integral of 3b, confirming that Fc gamma R and complement receptor trigger both PLA2 action and efficient lysis. Inhibition by thimerosal of a reverse reaction, i.e., reacylation catalyzed by acyltransferase, causes increased target cell lysis, presumably by increasing the products of PLA2 action. Platelet cytotoxicity is increased when platelets are pretreated with some products of PLA2: exogenous lysophospholipids and not free arachidonic acid increase cytotoxicity. Electron microscopy suggests that platelets and target cells may fuse, possibly as a result of the formation of lysophospholipids which are well-known membrane fusogens. Fixation with paraformaldehyde does not affect platelet cytotoxicity, suggesting that the complete cytotoxic system resides as a preformed complex in platelet membranes. The results indicate that platelet membrane-associated PLA2, together with receptors for Fc and complement, are required for platelet cytotoxicity.

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