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Blood. 2010 Nov 11;116(19):3990-8. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-02-269266. Epub 2010 Aug 9.

von Willebrand factor self-association on platelet GpIbalpha under hydrodynamic shear: effect on shear-induced platelet activation.

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  • 1Chemical and Biological Engineering, State University of New York, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.


The function of the mechanosensitive, multimeric blood protein von Willebrand factor (VWF) is dependent on its size. We tested the hypothesis that VWF may self-associate on the platelet glycoprotein Ibα (GpIbα) receptor under hydrodynamic shear. Consistent with this proposition, whereas Alexa-488-conjugated VWF (VWF-488) bound platelets at modest levels, addition of unlabeled VWF enhanced the extent of VWF-488 binding. Recombinant VWF lacking the A1-domain was conjugated with Alexa-488 to produce ΔA1-488. Although ΔA1-488 alone did not bind platelets under shear, this protein bound GpIbα on addition of either purified plasma VWF or recombinant full-length VWF. The extent of self-association increased with applied shear stress more than ∼ 60 to 70 dyne/cm(2). ΔA1-488 bound platelets in the milieu of plasma. On application of fluid shear to whole blood, half of the activated platelets had ΔA1-488 bound, suggesting that VWF self-association may be necessary for cell activation. Shearing platelets with 6-μm beads bearing either immobilized VWF or anti-GpIbα mAb resulted in cell activation at shear stress down to 2 to 5 dyne/cm(2). Taken together, the data suggest that fluid shear in circulation can increase the effective size of VWF bound to platelet GpIbα via protein self-association. This can trigger mechanotransduction and cell activation by enhancing the drag force applied on the cell-surface receptor.

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