Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura is associated with acquired or congenital deficiency of a plasma von Willebrand factor-cleaving protease (VWFCP). Based on partial amino acid sequence, VWFCP was identified recently as a new member of the ADAMTS family of metalloproteases and designated ADAMTS13. The 4.6-kilobase pair cDNA sequence for VWFCP has now been determined. By Northern blotting, full-length VWFCP mRNA was detected only in liver. VWFCP consists of 1427 amino acid residues and has a signal peptide, a short propeptide terminating in the sequence RQRR, a reprolysin-like metalloprotease domain, a disintegrin-like domain, a thrombospondin-1 repeat, a Cys-rich domain, an ADAMTS spacer, seven additional thrombospondin-1 repeats, and two CUB domains. VWFCP apparently is made as a zymogen that requires proteolytic activation, possibly by furin intracellularly. Sites for Zn(2+) and Ca(2+) ions are conserved in the protease domain. The Cys-rich domain contains an RGDS sequence that could mediate integrin-dependent binding to platelets or other cells. Alternative splicing gives rise to at least seven potential variants that truncate the protein at different positions after the protease domain. Alternative splicing may have functional significance, producing proteins with distinct abilities to interact with cofactors, connective tissue, platelets, and von Willebrand factor.