Collagen binding is an easily performed test of von Willebrand factor (VWF) function but its role in clinical evaluation is still debated. Analysis of multimer distribution, on the other hand, is time-consuming and technically challenging. We hypothesized that VWF antigen (VWF:Ag), ristocetin cofactor activity (VWF:RCo), and collagen binding (VWF:CB) could identify the subset of von Willebrand disease (VWD) cases in which multimer analysis would be informative. Subjects from the Zimmerman Program for the Molecular and Clinical Biology of VWD were analyzed for VWF:Ag, VWF:RCo, VWF:CB (with type III human placental collagen), multimer distribution, and full VWF exon sequencing. Normal controls as well as patients with type 1, 2A, 2B, 2M, and 2N VWD were analyzed. The mean VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratio for subjects with normal multimers was 1.10, while the mean ratio for subjects with abnormal multimers was 0.51 (p<0.001). When results were restricted to those subjects with confirmed type 2A or type 2B mutations, however, the mean ratio for subjects with abnormal multimers decreased to 0.41 (p<0.001 compared to those with normal multimers). For the 146 normal controls with multimer results available, 2 had absence of the highest molecular weight multimers, but normal collagen binding, normal bleeding scores, and no evidence of a VWF gene mutation, suggesting that the multimer results represented assay artifact. 354 type 1 subjects were examined; of those, 12 had abnormal multimer patterns. 7 had loss of the high molecular weight multimers. Of these, 5 had known type 1 VWD mutations and normal VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratios, possibly representing sample artifacts rather than a true multimer abnormality, as no multimer issues have been previously reported for these mutations. One had no mutation found and one had a type 2A mutation. 2 had a full spectrum of multimers with relatively increased staining of the lower molecular weight bands; both with novel A1 domain mutations that are currently under investigation. 3 had larger than normal multimers observed, all with normal VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratios. Of the 342 type 1 subjects with normal multimers, only one had a VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratio of <0.7, likely due to very low values (VWF:CB of 2 and VWF:Ag of 4). There were 36 type 2A subjects available for analysis. 27 had loss of high molecular weight multimers. Only 3 of those had VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratios >0.7, but none of those subjects had VWF mutations consistent with type 2A VWD. 7 subjects had a shift from high to low molecular weight multimers, 4 with VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratios >0.7 and either known type 1 mutations or novel VWF gene mutations. 2 subjects had normal multimer distribution, one with a type1 VWD mutation and one with a novel mutation. Characterization of these novel mutations is in progress. All the 17 type 2B subjects had loss of high molecular weight multimers and abnormal collagen binding, with a VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratio <0.7. Interestingly, however, not all had a reduced VWF:RCo/VWF:Ag ratio, suggesting VWF:CB would be required in addition to VWF:RCo if multimer distribution was omitted in initial evaluation of this type of VWD. Of 18 type 2M subjects, only one had an abnormal multimer distribution. That subject had no mutations in the VWF coding sequence and normal VWF:CB, although the VWF:RCo/VWF:Ag ratio was low at 0.53. Repeat analysis of a new sample from this subject is pending. All 7 type 2N VWD subjects had normal multimers and VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratios >0.7. In our population, with the exception of mutations that are yet to be characterized, the combination of VWF:Ag, VWF:RCo and VWF:CB was sufficient to categorize patients as normal, type 1, type 2A, 2B or 2M in the before multimer analysis. These findings suggest that VWF:CB is a sensitive screen for detection of an abnormal multimer distribution. Collagen binding is technically much easier to perform, allowing multimer analysis to be reserved for those cases with low VWF:RCo/VWF:Ag or low VWF:CB/VWF:Ag ratios.
No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.
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