We report on two siblings who developed severe neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia (NAIT) due to an alloantibody against a labile component or components of the HPA-3a (Bak^a) antigen. The antibody reacted only with fresh, unfixed platelets by the solid-phase red cell adherence test, immunofluorescence test and mixed passive haemagglutination test. In the latter method, weakly fixed platelets also gave a weak positive reaction. Monoclonal-antibody-specific immobilization of platelet antigens and immunoblotting tests gave negative results. Our findings may possibly help to explain why in some cases of NAIT no platelet-specific antibody is demonstrable in tests with fixed or solubilized platelets.