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The shape change that occurs when platelets are stimulated with an agonist can be quantitated by monitoring changes in their forward-scatter/side-scatter profile using a flow cytometer. Here we have stimulated platelets in citrated whole blood with several agonists and determined the time-course and extent of the shape change that occurs. In some experiments parallel investigations of shape change and aggregation were performed. Aggregation was measured by monitoring the fall in number of single platelets using a Whole Blood Platelet Counter. Some agents (ADP, PAF, U46619 and 5HT) produced a strong and rapid change in platelet forward-scatter/side-scatter that was maximal within 10 s. Others (A23187 and collagen) produced a strong but slower response. Adrenaline produced only a weak response that was also slow to develop, and PMA did not produce any response. The concentrations of each of ADP, PAF, U46619 and 5HT needed to induce a shape change were lower than those required for aggregation. Selective PAF, TXA2 and 5HT antagonists (WEB 2086, sulotroban and MCI-9042) clearly inhibited both the shape change and the aggregation induced by the appropriate agonist; in each case the effect of the antagonist was to move the dose-response curve to the right. These results are consistent with the shape change and aggregation brought about by each of these agonists being mediated via a single receptor. In contrast, a selective P2T purinoceptor antagonist (ARL 66096) markedly inhibited the aggregation induced by ADP but was found to have little or no effect on shape change. This is consistent with these platelet responses to ADP being mediated by different receptors, with P2T receptors mediating only the aggregation response.