Blood platelets are critical for hemostasis and thrombosis and play diverse roles during immune responses. Despite these versatile tasks in mammalian biology, their skills on a cellular level are deemed limited, mainly consisting in rolling, adhesion, and aggregate formation. Here, we identify an unappreciated asset of platelets and show that adherent platelets use adhesion receptors to mechanically probe the adhesive substrate in their local microenvironment. When actomyosin-dependent traction forces overcome substrate resistance, platelets migrate and pile up the adhesive substrate together with any bound particulate material. They use this ability to act as cellular scavengers, scanning the vascular surface for potential invaders and collecting deposited bacteria. Microbe collection by migrating platelets boosts the activity of professional phagocytes, exacerbating inflammatory tissue injury in sepsis. This assigns platelets a central role in innate immune responses and identifies them as potential targets to dampen inflammatory tissue damage in clinical scenarios of severe systemic infection. In addition to their role in thrombosis and hemostasis, platelets can also migrate to sites of infection to help trap bacteria and clear the vascular surface.
Research Areas and Centers
- Academic Focus: Center for Infection and Inflammation Research (ZIEL)