Many patients with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) have a platelet aggregating factor in their serum that may be pathologically linked with the disease process. To help characterize the type of platelet aggregation and platelet release induced by the sera from seven TTP patients, we measured the ability of a variety of inhibitors of platelet function as well as the ability of monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs) against platelet glycoproteins to inhibit TTP sera-induced platelet aggregation and release. These results were compared with the ability of the same inhibitors to block platelet aggregation induced by ristocetin, collagen, ADP, thrombin, and IgG-immune complexes. Monoclonal antibody directed against platelet glycoprotein Ib totally inhibited ristocetin-induced aggregation and release but had no effect on aggregation and release induced by the TTP sera or by any of the other platelet agonists. However, the MoAb against glycoproteins IIb/IIIa inhibited aggregation and release caused by TTP sera as well as by collagen, thrombin, and ADP but had no effect on aggregation and release induced by ristocetin. The aggregating activity could be abolished by heparin but not by the serine protease inhibitor PMSF (1 mmol/L). And although monomeric human IgG and purified Fc fragments of IgG inhibited IgG-immune complex-induced aggregation and release, they had no effect on TTP sera-induced aggregation and release nor on aggregation and release induced by any of the other agonists. Consistent with these in vitro studies showing no effect of IgG were the in vivo observations that intravenous (IV) IgG was without effect when administered to three patients with TTP. This study indicates that although a von Willebrand factor (vWF)-rich preparation of cryoprecipitate enhances the in vitro platelet aggregation and release caused by sera from the seven TTP patients we studied, the pathway of aggregation and release is not via platelet glycoprotein Ib. Also the aggregating factor of TTP sera is not neutralized in vitro or in vivo by IgG.