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Blood. 2019 Apr 4;133(14):1585-1596. doi: 10.1182/blood-2018-09-874636. Epub 2019 Feb 15.

Increased galactose expression and enhanced clearance in patients with low von Willebrand factor.

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Haemostasis Research Group, Department of Molecular and Cellular Therapeutics, Irish Centre for Vascular Biology, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.
National Coagulation Centre, St James's Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.
Department of Pediatrics and Human Genetics and Genomics Program, University of Colorado, Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO; and.
Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Kingston, ON, Canada.


Glycan determinants on von Willebrand factor (VWF) play critical roles in regulating its susceptibility to proteolysis and clearance. Abnormal glycosylation has been shown to cause von Willebrand disease (VWD) in a number of different mouse models. However, because of the significant technical challenges associated with accurate assessment of VWF glycan composition, the importance of carbohydrates in human VWD pathogenesis remains largely unexplored. To address this, we developed a novel lectin-binding panel to enable human VWF glycan characterization. This methodology was then used to study glycan expression in a cohort of 110 patients with low VWF compared with O blood group-matched healthy controls. Interestingly, significant interindividual heterogeneity in VWF glycan expression was seen in the healthy control population. This variation included terminal sialylation and ABO(H) blood group expression on VWF. Importantly, we also observed evidence of aberrant glycosylation in a subgroup of patients with low VWF. In particular, terminal α(2-6)-linked sialylation was reduced in patients with low VWF, with a secondary increase in galactose (Gal) exposure. Furthermore, an inverse correlation between Gal exposure and estimated VWF half-life was observed in those patients with enhanced VWF clearance. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that loss of terminal sialylation contributes to the pathophysiology underpinning low VWF in at least a subgroup of patients by promoting enhanced clearance. In addition, alterations in VWF carbohydrate expression are likely to contribute to quantitative and qualitative variations in VWF levels in the normal population. This trial was registered at as #NCT03167320.

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