Physiological concentrations of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) sensitize blood platelets to α-thrombin- and collagen-induced secretion, and after prolonged contact trigger secretion independent of other agonists. Here we report that LDL activates the small GTPases Rap1 and Ral but not Ras, as assessed by specific precipitation of the GTP-bound enzymes. In unstirred suspensions, the inhibitor SB203580 blocks Rap1 activation by 60-70%, suggesting activation via p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase and a second, unidentified route. Inhibitors of cyclooxygenase (indomethacin) and the thromboxane A2 (TxA2) receptor (SQ30741) induce complete inhibition, indicating that Rap1 activation is the result of TxA2 formation. Stirring reveals a second, TxA2-independent Rap1 activation, which correlates quantitatively with a slow induction of dense granule secretion. Both pathways are unaffected by inhibitors of ligand binding to integrin αIIbβ3. The results suggest that Rap1 and Ral, but not Ras, may take part in signalling routes initiated by LDL that initially enhance the sensitivity of platelets to other agonists and later trigger LDL-dependent secretion.

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