Acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), a thrombotic disorder that is fatal in almost all cases if not treated promptly, is primarily caused by IgG-type autoantibodies that inhibit the ability of the ADAMTS13 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase with a thrombospondin type 1 motif, member 13) metalloprotease to cleave von Willebrand factor (VWF). Because the mechanism of autoantibody-mediated inhibition of ADAMTS13 activity is not known, the only effective therapy so far is repeated whole-body plasma exchange. We used hydrogen-deuterium exchange mass spectrometry (HX MS) to determine the ADAMTS13 binding epitope for three representative human monoclonal autoantibodies, isolated from TTP patients by phage display as tethered single-chain fragments of the variable regions (scFvs). All three scFvs bind the same conformationally discontinuous epitopic region on five small solvent-exposed loops in the spacer domain of ADAMTS13. The same epitopic region is also bound by most polyclonal IgG autoantibodies in 23 TTP patients that we tested. The ability of ADAMTS13 to proteolyze VWF is impaired by the binding of autoantibodies at the epitopic loops in the spacer domain, by the deletion of individual epitopic loops, and by some local mutations. Structural considerations and HX MS results rule out any disruptive structure change effect in the distant ADAMTS13 metalloprotease domain. Instead, it appears that the same ADAMTS13 loop segments that bind the autoantibodies are also responsible for correct binding to the VWF substrate. If so, the autoantibodies must prevent VWF proteolysis simply by physically blocking normal ADAMTS13 to VWF interaction. These results point to the mechanism for autoantibody action and an avenue for therapeutic intervention.