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Traffic. 2004 Feb;5(2):69-78.

How to roll an endothelial cigar: the biogenesis of Weibel-Palade bodies.

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Department of Biochemistry, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Weibel-Palade bodies (WPB) are the regulated secretory organelles of endothelial cells. These cigar-shaped membrane-bound structures function in both hemostasis and inflammation but their biogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we review what is currently known about their formation. The content of WPBs is dominated by the hemostatic factor von Willebrand factor (VWF), whose complex biogenesis ends in the formation of high molecular weight multimers. VWF is also organized into proteinaceous tubules which underlie the striated interior of WPBs as seen in the EM. VWF expression is necessary for formation of WPBs, and its heterologous expression can even lead to the specific recruitment of WPB membrane proteins, including the leukocyte receptor P-selectin, the tetraspanin CD63, and Rab27a. Unusually, the VWF propeptide is implicated in the biogenesis of WPBs, being essential for formation of the storage compartment. The elongation of the cigars and the formation of the tubules are determined by non-covalent interactions between pro- and mature VWF proteins. Surprisingly, high molecular weight multimers seem neither necessary nor sufficient to trigger formation of a storage compartment, and do not seem to have any role in WPB biogenesis. Von Willebrand's disease, usually caused by mutations within VWF, has provided many of the insights into the way in which VWF drives the formation of these organelles.

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