Microparticles (MPs) are small vesicles released from the membrane surface during eukaryotic cell activation or apoptosis. They originate from various cell types, displaying the typical surface cell proteins and cytoplasmic components of their cell origin. Their procoagulant properties are linked to phosphatidylserine exposed at their surface. Numerous reports have shown that MPs are able to mediate long-range signaling, acting on different targets from those of their own cellular origin. MPs-mediated binding to other cells occurs by integration into the membrane, by adhesion to the cell surface or by ligand-receptor interaction. Elevated levels of circulating MPs have been detected in cardiovascular and immune-mediated diseases. Despite extensive studies of the procoagulant and pro-inflammatory properties of MPs, little is known about their effect on vascular function. MPs accumulate in atherosclerotic plaques and injured vascular wall. Circulating MPs from patients with myocardial infarction induce endothelial dysfunction by impairing the endothelial nitric oxide (NO) pathway, without causing changes in endothelial NO-synthase (eNOS) expression. However, MPs from T-cells may induce endothelial dysfunction, altering gene expression of eNOS and caveolin-1. Moreover, MPs may promote the expression of pro-inflammatory proteins implicated in vascular contractility alterations. This review describes the origin of MPs and their biological role in physiological conditions and in various pathological states, with special reference to the possible linkage between their pro-inflammatory and procoagulant properties and vascular dysfunction.
Keywords: Apoptosis, microparticles, microparticlesinflammation