Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a disorder in which platelets, sensitized by autoantibodies, are destroyed by the reticuloendothelial system. The diagnosis of ITP has been a clinical one because assays measuring platelet-associated IgG (PAIgG) have low specificity. The recently introduced assays that measure antibodies against specific platelet glycoproteins (GP) offer the possibility of improved specificity. In this report we describe two prospective studies. In the first study we compared two protein- specific assays (AC and MAIPA) looking for the presence of autoantibodies against GP IIb/IIIa in 81 patient samples. These results were compared with an immunoradiometric assay for PAIgG. The second study investigated the enhanced sensitivity of measuring anti-GP Ib/IX autoantibodies in 76 patient samples. The protein-specific assays were able to differentiate immune from non-immune thrombocytopenia (specificity 91%, sensitivity 39%), whereas the PAIgG assay could not (specificity 19%, sensitivity 78%). The addition of the Ib/IX AC assay maintained a specificity of 92% while increasing the diagnostic sensitivity to 66%. In contrast to the PAIgG assay, there was no correlation between the platelet count and the likelihood or degree of positivity within the control samples using the glycoprotein assays. These studies confirm that glycoprotein assays can be used as diagnostic tests for ITP.