An acquired inhibitor of von Willebrand factor (vWF) activity occurring in a patient with benign gammopathy and von Willebrand syndrome (vWS) has been partially characterized. The inhibitor-induced syndrome resulted in low to undetectable plasma levels of vWF/ristocetin, vWF/botrocetin, FVIIIR:Ag, and FVIII:C with a normal to slightly prolonged bleeding time. Platelet vWF was normal. Intensive and continuous infusion of a heat-treated factor VIII concentrate (Hemofil- T, Hyland, Glendale, Calif) elevated the FVIII:C plasma levels to about 100%, with an increase in FVIIIR:Ag levels to about 340% and vWF/ristocetin levels to about 40%, much lower than expected based on the dose of Hemofil-T and its content of vWF and FVIII:C activities. The inhibitor bound to staphylococcal protein A (SpA) with high affinity, indicating an IgG antibody (Ab). An assay for the vWF-binding capacity was developed on the basis of absorption of the Ab from serially diluted plasma by SpA and removal of vWF and FVIII:C activities from normal plasma by the SpA-Ab complex. The Ab-binding site was on the vWF component of the factor VIII complex. The Ab was unable to bind isolated FVIII:C. The combined use of the new vWF- binding assay and a battery of tests for inhibition of vWF-dependent platelet aggregation with ristocetin (which detects high molecular weight vWF), with botrocetin (which detects high and low molecular weight vWF), and with platelet-aggregating factor (which detects high molecular weight vWF) provided a means of analysis of Ab effect on in vitro vWF function. Using these tests, a comparison was made of the effects of the vWS Ab with those of an Ab inhibitor occurring in homozygous von Willebrand's disease. The Ab of the vWS patient had weak inhibitory action on vWF/ristocetin without having an effect on vWF/botrocetin and platelet-aggregating factor, a high titer vWF- binding capacity, and no anamnestic response following concentrate therapy. These findings contrasted with those of the Ab occurring in inhibitor von Willebrand's disease in which vWF inhibitor and binding values were similar, with a strong anamnestic response. The findings indicate that the vWS Ab binds to an epitope on the molecular vWF in such a way that causes only limited inhibition of vWF/ristocetin function and no inhibition of vWF/botrocetin function, suggesting that these two functional domains are at separate sites.