1. The metabolism of blood platelets, taken as an accessible model of excitable cells, has been reported to be altered in hypertension. Most of the identified alterations concern the functions of various plasma membrane constituents.

2. A possible modification of membrane microviscosity was investigated by 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene and 1-[4-(trimethylamino)phenyl]-6-phenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene fluorescence depolarization. In order to determine whether or not the membrane structures probed by these indicators were related to platelet physiological functions, the cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration was determined in parallel.

3. At physiological temperature, the fluorescence anisotropy of 1-[4-(trimethylamino)phenyl]-6-phenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene was decreased in untreated hypertensive patients (0.276 ± 0.002 versus 0.288 ± 0.002, n = 23 and 22, P < 0.001), indicating a lowered microviscosity at the lipid-water interface of cell membrane. It correlated inversely with blood pressure (P < 0.001) and cytosolic free Ca2+ concentration (P < 0.030). On the contrary, 1,6-diphenyl-1,3,5-hexatriene fluorescence anisotropy was observed to vary with sex but not with blood pressure.

4. These results suggest that structural membrane modifications may participate in the various functional abnormalities observed in platelets from hypertensive patients.

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