Hybridoma antibodies specific for seven independent topographical sites were used to characterize von Willebrand factor (vWF) and to relate the epitopes to functional loci required for vWF-mediated adhesion of platelets to subendothelium and ristocetin-induced platelet aggregation. The capacity of antibodies to influence the adhesion of human platelets to rabbit aortic subendothelium was analysed in annular perfusion chambers. At a high shear rate similar to that of the microcirculation, four monoclonal antibodies inhibited adhesion. In contrast, no inhibition was observed at low shear. Only one of the four antibodies that inhibited platelet adhesion also attenuated ristocetin-cofactor activity (VIIIR:RCo). Conversely, one antibody that inhibited VIIIR:RCo had no effect upon platelet adhesion. These data support the hypothesis that the molecular loci involved in the two biological functions of vWF are not identical. When these conclusions are considered within the context of a spatial map of the vWF protein surface developed by competitive displacement analysis, the epitopes related to platelet adhesion appear to be spaced and differ from those involved in ristocetin-induced platelet-platelet interaction.