Rabbit abdominal aortas and human umbilical arteries are currently used as substrata for the study of platelet adhesion and aggregate formation under flow conditions. Using immunohistochemical and ultrastructural methods, we have analyzed both vessel surfaces. The reactivity towards platelets of the subendothelium (SE) exposed on these vessels after mechanical or enzymatic digestion (α-chymotrypsin) was morphometrically quantified and the nature of the interaction studied in the electron microscope. After mechanical damage, the ultrastructural study of rabbit aortas showed a clearly defined internal elastic lamina (IEL). In contrast, umbilical vessels lacked a consistent IEL and masses of amorphous material often located deeper in the media were the main constitutents of the SE. Immunohistochemical labeling of the von Willebrand factor bound to both types of vessel differed considerably. Quantification of platelet interactions after perfusion of citrated blood showed qualitative differences between mechanically damaged rabbit or human vessels. Enzymatic digestion produced a more thrombogenic surface on rabbit aortas (p < 0.01 vs. nondigested), but decreased their reactivity towards platelets on umbilical arteries (p < 0.01 vs. nondigested). The ultrastructural study of the interacting platelets revealed that aggregates, when present, were found on the extracellular matrix underlying endothelial cells of rabbit aortas, but interacting with fibrillar structures probably derived from cell elements of the media in the case of umbilical arteries. These findings indicate that rabbit aortas and umbilical arteries possess structural characteristics that result in different thrombogenic properties with respect to circulating platelets.