We have investigated two major questions related to the molecular basis of interactions between the three-dimensional fibrin network and thrombin-stimulated human platelets. First, what are the roles played by glycoproteins (GP) Ib and IIb:IIIa in linking the fibrin clot tightly to the platelet surface? Second, does von Willebrand factor (vWF) modulate the extent of platelet-fibrin interactions? Quantitative fluorescence microscopy (microfluorimetry) has been used to determine the quantity of fluorescein-labeled fibrin bound to the surface of thrombin-stimulated, gel-filtered platelets (the supernatants of which contained small quantities of vWF) in the presence/absence of receptor- specific and vWF-specific monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs), as well as exogenous vWF. A MoAb specific for the GPIIb:IIIa complex exhibited a concentration-dependent inhibition of fibrin binding, whereas a MoAb specific for GPIb was ineffective in this regard. Similarly, a MoAb that recognizes the N-terminal region of vWF involved in GPIb binding did not influence fibrin binding. In contrast, a MoAb that binds to a C- terminal region of vWF involved in GPIIb:IIIa recognition caused a specific, concentration-dependent increase in the quantity of platelet- bound fibrin. We also found that exogenous vWF caused a concentration- dependent decrease in fibrin binding. These results support the hypothesis that vWF and fibrin, both of which are multimeric adhesive ligands, compete for occupancy of the GPIIb:IIIa complex on thrombin- stimulated platelets.