Background: Many patients with acquired thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) harbor autoantibodies that may bind and/or inhibit ADAMTS-13 proteolytic activity and accelerate its clearance in vivo. Methods: To test this hypothesis, we determined ADAMTS-13 activity and antigen levels in parallel plasma samples from patients clinically diagnosed with TTP. Collagen binding, GST-VWF73 and FRETS-VWF73 assays were used to determine ADAMTS-13 activity and to detect inhibitory autoantibodies. Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and immunoprecipitation plus Western blotting (IP/WB) were used to detect total anti-ADAMTS-13 IgG (inhibitory and non-inhibitory). Results: Among 40 patients with TTP (21 idiopathic and 19 non-idiopathic), inhibitory autoantibodies were detected (by FRETS-VWF73) in 52% of idiopathic and 0% of non-idiopathic TTP patients. In contrast, non-inhibitory IgG autoantibodies were detected in 29% of idiopathic and 50% of non-idiopathic TTP patients. The concentration of inhibitory IgG autoantibody in idiopathic TTP patients was significantly higher than that of non-inhibitory IgG in either idiopathic or non-idiopathic TTP patients. Idiopathic TTP patients demonstrated significantly reduced ADAMTS-13 activity compared with non-idiopathic patients, but only slightly lower ADAMTS-13 antigen levels. Interestingly, patients with inhibitory autoantibodies exhibited significantly lower ADAMTS-13 antigen levels than those with only non-inhibitory IgG autoantibodies or no autoantibody. Serial plasma exchanges increased levels of ADAMTS-13 activity and antigen concurrently in patients with inhibitory autoantibodies. Conclusion: The identification of severe ADAMTS-13 deficiency and autoantibodies or inhibitors appears to be assay-dependent; the inhibitory IgG autoantibodies, in addition to binding and inhibiting ADAMTS-13 proteolytic activity, may accelerate ADAMTS-13 clearance in vivo. © 2006 International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis.