, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 545-556
Date: 12 Dec 2009

Platelets and viruses: an ambivalent relationship

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Thrombocytopenia is a frequent complication of viral infections providing evidence that interaction of platelets with viruses is an important pathophysiological phenomenon. Multiple mechanisms are involved depending on the nature of the viruses involved. These include immunological platelet destruction, inappropriate platelet activation and consumption, and impaired megakaryopoiesis. Viruses bind platelets through specific receptors and identified ligands, which lead to mutual alterations of both the platelet host and the viral aggressor. We have shown that HIV-1 viruses are internalized specifically in platelets and megakaryocytes, where they can be either sheltered, unaltered (with potential transfer of the viruses into target organs), or come in contact with platelet secretory products leading to virus destruction and facilitated platelet clearance. In this issue, we have reviewed the various pathways that platelets use in order to interact with viruses, HIV and others. This review also shows that more work is still needed to precisely identify platelet roles in viral infections, and to answer the challenge of viral safety in platelet transfusion.