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Blood. 1998 Mar 15;91(6):2032-44.

Molecular modeling of ligand and mutation sites of the type A domains of human von Willebrand factor and their relevance to von Willebrand's disease.

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Katherine Dormandy Haemophilia and Haemostasis Centre, Department of Haematology, Royal Free Hospital and School of Medicine, London, UK.


von Willebrand factor (vWF) is a large multimeric, multidomain glycoprotein found in platelets, endothelial cells and plasma. The A1, A2, and A3 domains in vWF mediate binding to glycoprotein Ib, ristocetin, botrocetin, collagen, sulphatides, and heparin and provide a protease cleavage site. Mutations causing types 2B, 2M, and 2A von Willebrand's disease (vWD) are located in the A1 and A2 domains. Homology modeling was performed to provide a molecular interpretation of vWF function and mutation sites. This was based on our previous alignment of 75 vWF-A sequences, the doubly wound alpha/beta fold seen in recent vWF-A crystal structures from complement receptor type 3 and lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1, and our new alignment of 28 vWF A1 and A2 sequences from different species. The active site in doubly-wound alpha/beta folds forms a crevice that is located at the switch point between the two halves of the central beta-sheet, and usually contains two metal-binding Asp residues in the vWF-A superfamily. Although one of these Asp residues is absent from the A1, A2, and A3 domains, this crevice is shown to correspond to the ristocetin binding site in the A1 domain and the protease cleavage site in the A2 domain. The residues R571-K572-R578-R579-K585 are found to be conserved in 28 A1 sequences and are predicted to constitute the heparin binding site in the A1 domain. Inspection of the type 2M vWD mutation sites that are involved in downregulation of glycoprotein Ib (GpIb) binding to vWF shows that these are spatially clustered at the carboxyl-edge of the beta-sheet and above it in the A1 domain and may directly perturb GpIb binding. In contrast, the type 2B vWD mutation sites that are involved in upregulation of GpIb binding to vWF are spatially clustered at the amino edge of this beta-sheet and below it and are located on the opposite side of the A1 domain from the type 2M mutation sites. The type 2B mutations are located between the heparin and GpIb binding sites. Because heparin binding inhibits the interaction with GpIb, this provides an explanation of vWF upregulation. The type 2A vWD mutation sites in the A2 domain correspond to buried residues that are otherwise 100% conserved across all 28 species, and are likely to be important for the correct folding of the A2 domain and its physiologically important protease site.

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