The interaction between blood platelets and the vessel wall represents the initial event in the haemostatic response to vessel injury. At a molecular level, this interaction involves the platelet membrane glycoprotein (GP) Ib-IX complex, von Willebrand factor (vWF) and a component (s) of the subendothelial matrix. In recent years, the primary sequences of both the vWF molecule and the three chains comprising the GP Ib-IX complex, i.e., GP Ibα, GP Ibβ and GP IX, have been determined, providing further insight into the structure-function relationships of these molecules. As a result, much recent investigation has been directed towards identifying small amino acid sequences in the primary chains of both GP Ibα and vWF which define the adhesive interaction. This review summarises current data concerning structure-function analysis of vWF and the GP Ib-IX complex and the putative identification of ligand- and receptor-binding domains involved in the interaction of vWF with the GP Ib-IX complex.