The possibility that platelets release microvesicles on adherence to either von Willebrand factor (vWf) or collagen was examined by flow cytometry analysis of the supernatant above layers of adherent platelets. No microvesicle release was detected as a result of adherence to vWf or to collagen, a known platelet agonist. Approximately 8% of the total platelet mass was released as microvesicles after thrombin stimulation of the vWfor collagen-adherent platelets. A larger portion of the vWf-adherent platelet membranes (approximately 21%) was released as microvesicles subsequent to platelet stimulation with the nonphysiological agonist calcium ionophore A23187. Calpeptin, a calpain inhibitor, had no effect on microvesicle release, suggesting that calpain proteolysis of platelet cytoskeletal proteins was not responsible for microvesicle shedding under the conditions studied. Examination of the vWf-adherent platelets by scanning electron microscopy showed that virtually no microvesicles bound to exposed vWf multimers. No microvesicle binding to the adherent platelets was observed, indicating that the majority of the microvesicles were shed from the platelet and vWf surface on platelet activation. The ability of the microvesicle population to support procoagulant activity was measured with a prothrombinase activity assay and was compared with the activity supported by the adherent platelet membranes. More than 85% of the total prothrombinase activity remained associated with the adherent platelet membranes, both for unstimulated platelets and platelets stimulated with physiological agonists. Furthermore, the residual activity found in the buffer fraction containing detached platelets and any released microvesicles could be attributed to the detached platelets. No activity could be attributed to the microvesicles, as thrombin stimulation of either vWfor collagen-adherent platelets did not promote increased procoagulant activity relative to the unstimulated adherent platelets, even though microvesicle release was detected as a result of agonist addition. Neither full platelet activation nor microvesicle shedding played an essential role in generating procoagulant activity in the adherent platelet system.