The interaction of the multimeric glycoprotein von Willebrand Factor (vWF) with its platelet membrane receptor, the glycoprotein (GP) Ib-IX complex plays a key role in the initial adhesion of platelets to the vascular subendothelium at high shear blood flow. The GP Ib-IX-binding site is only expressed following activation of vWF, a process that regulates vWF-mediated platelet adhesion. Binding of vWF to the GP Ib-IX complex involves the vWF A1 internal repeat domain, which also contains distinct binding sites for sulfatides, heparin, and the non-physiological modulators of the vWF-GP Ib-IX interaction, ristocetin and botrocetin. With the ultimate aim of further defining the mechanism of vWF modulation, we have analyzed the ability of various polyanionic compounds, including aurintricarboxylic acid, Evans blue, fucoidan, and a range of sulfated and phosphorylated sugars, to inhibit specific binding of purified vWF to immobilized sulfatides and heparin, and the ristocetin- and botrocetindependent binding of vWF to the platelet GP Ib-IX complex. Firstly, it was confirmed using a solid-phase binding assay that, like sulfatides, heparin specifically bound to a purified 39/WkiloDalton fragment of vWF (Leu-480 to Gly-718) that encompasses the A1 domain. Secondly, the ability of a number of polyanionic compounds to inhibit binding of vWF to heparin, but not to immobilized sulfatides, supported previous data suggesting that heparin and sulfatides bind to distinct sites on vWF. In addition, aurintricarboxylic acid, Evans blue and fucoidan all inhibited binding of vWF to both heparin and sulfatides with similar ICso values. Thirdly, many of the compounds tested that inhibited binding of vWF to heparin also effectively inhibited both ristocetin- and botrocetin-dependent binding of vWF to the GP Ib-IX complex on platelets, whereas none of the compounds tested blocked vWF binding to sulfatides and GP Ib-IX but not heparin. The majority of compounds tested inhibited the vWF-platelet interaction to a comparable degree in the presence of ristocetin or botrocetin, suggesting a similar mechanism for inhibition irrespective of the modulator used. These combined experiments provide evidence for an electrostatic model of vWF modulation, and suggest that the heparin-binding domain of vWF may be an important regulatory site involved in the adhesion of vWF to the platelet GP Ib-IX complex.