Ruptured atherosclerotic plaques, lined with activated platelets, constitute an attractive target for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This study evaluated whether microparticles of iron oxide (MPIO) targeting ligand-induced binding sites (LIBS) on the activated conformation of glycoprotein IIb/IIIa could be used to image platelets. MPIO (size: 1 microm) were conjugated to anti-LIBS or control single-chain antibody. Following guidewire injury to mouse femoral artery, platelet adhesion was present after 24 h. Mice were perfused with anti-LIBS-MPIO (or control MPIO) via the left ventricle and 11.7-tesla MRI was performed on femoral arteries ex vivo. A 3D gradient echo sequence attained an isotropic resolution of 25 microm. MPIO binding, quantified by MRI, was 4-fold higher with anti-LIBS-MPIO in comparison to control MPIO (p < 0.01). In histological sections, low signal zones on MRI and MPIO correlated strongly (R(2) = 0.72; p < 0.001), indicating accurate MR quantification. In conclusion, anti-LIBS-MPIO bind to activated platelets in mouse arteries, providing a basis for the use of function-specific single-chain antibody-MPIO conjugates for molecular MRI, and represent the first molecular imaging of a conformational change in a surface receptor. This presents an opportunity to specifically image activated platelets involved in acute atherothrombosis with MRI.