Cross-linking platelet GPIb with the snake C-type lectin echicetin provides a specific technique for activation via this receptor. This allows GPIb-dependent mechanisms to be studied without the necessity for shear stress-induced binding of von Willebrand factor or primary alpha(IIb)beta(3) involvement. We already showed that platelets are activated, including tyrosine phosphorylation, by echicetin-IgMkappa-induced GPIb cross-linking. We now investigate the mechanism further and demonstrate that platelets, without modulator reagents, spread directly on an echicetin-coated surface, by a GPIb-specific mechanism, causing exocytosis of alpha-granule markers (P-selectin) and activation of alpha(IIb)beta(3). This spreading requires actin polymerization and release of internal calcium stores but is not dependent on external calcium nor on src family tyrosine kinases. Cross-linking of GPIb complex molecules on platelets, either in suspension or via specific surface attachment, is sufficient to induce platelet activation.