Glycoprotein IIb (GPIIb) and glycoprotein IIIa (GPIIIa) form a macromolecular complex on the activated platelet surface which contains the fibrinogen-binding site necessary for normal platelet aggregation. To identify the specific region of the fibrinogen molecule responsible for its interaction with the GPIIb-GPIIIa complex, purified fragment D1 (Mr = 100,000) and fragment E (Mr = 50,000) were prepared from plasmin digests of purified human fibrinogen. In addition, the polypeptide chain subunits A alpha, B beta, and gamma of fibrinogen were prepared. Using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay we have demonstrated that isolated fragment D1 in a solid phase system forms a complex with a mixture of GPIIb and GPIIIa. The binding of the GPIIb-GPIIIa mixture to fragment D1-coated plates reached saturation at 8 nM and to fibrinogen-coated plates at 24 nM. Isolated A alpha, B beta, and gamma chains were not reactive with added glycoproteins. Fragment E coated directly on plastic plates or immobilized on antibody-coated plastic plates did not form a complex with GPIIb-GPIIIa. Only fluid phase fibrinogen and fragment D1 but not fragment E were inhibitory toward formation of a complex between solid phase fibrinogen and GPIIb-GPIIIa. Isolated A alpha, B beta, and gamma chains at concentrations equivalent to fluid phase fibrinogen were inactive. Binding of fragment D1 but not fragment E to the GPIIb-GPIIIa complex was also demonstrated by rocket immunoelectrophoresis of the membrane glycoprotein mixture through a gel containing the individual fragments and subsequent autoradiography of the complex following exposure to 125I-anti-fibrinogen. These observations with isolated platelet membrane glycoproteins provide strong evidence that each of the D domains of the fibrinogen molecule interacts directly with the GPIIb-GPIIIa complex on the activated platelet surface, thus allowing formation of a tertiary molecular "bridge" across the surface of two adjacent activated platelets.