Von Willebrand factor (vWF), a multifunctional haemostatic glycoprotein derived from endothelial cells and megakaryocytes, mediates platelet adhesion to injured subendothelium and binds coagulation factor VIII in the circulation. Native vWF is a disulphide-bonded homopolymer; the monomeric subunits, of apparent relative molecular mass (Mr) 220,000 (220K) are derived from an intracellular precursor estimated at 260-275K. Multimer assembly is preceded by the formation of dimers, linked near their C-termini, which then assemble into filamentous polymers. The importance of the removal of the large vWF pro-polypeptide during multimer assembly, and whether this or other stages of the complex post-translational processing require components specific to endothelial cells or megakaryocytes, is unknown. Here we report an analysis of the complete sequence of pre-pro-vWF and expression of the molecule in heterologous cells. The vWF precursor is composed of several repeated subdomains. When expressed in COS and CHO cells, it is cleaved and assembled into biologically active high relative molecular mass disulphide bonded multimers. This suggests that the information for assembly of this complex molecule resides largely within its primary structure.