Plasma factor VIII (fVIII) circulates in complex with von Willebrand factor (VWF) and is rapidly cleared in the absence of VWF. Previous in vitro studies have 1) localized the fVIII-binding region of VWF to the N-terminus, comprised of the contiguous D' and D3 domains and 2) observed reduced affinity for fVIII upon alterations to the tertiary structure of VWF. To gain insight into the structure-function of VWF for fVIII stabilization, we tested VWF fragments for in vivo fVIII stabilization and investigated the architecture of a VWF fragment in complex with fVIII. For the in vivo study, fragments of murine Vwf cDNA were cloned into the hepatic-specific expression vector, pLIVE, and modified to fuse tandem E and FLAG tags to the C-terminus. The following VWF fragments were expressed in vivo by hydrodynamic tail vein injection into Vwf−/− mice: 1) a monomer of the VWF D'D3 domains (monoD'D3; M1-C22, S764-P1274); 2) a truncation of monomeric D'D3 (truncD'D3; M1-C22, S764-R1035); 3) dimers of D'D3 (diD'D3; M1-P1274); 4) multimers of D'D3 (multiD'D3; M1-P1274, G2713-K2813); 5) dimers of mature VWF subunits (DPro, M1-C22, S764-K2813); or 6) full length, multimeric VWF (wtVWF, M1-K2813). Expression of all VWF fragments persisted throughout the period of observation (4 weeks) with peak antigenic levels at 1 or 3 days post-injection. Prolonged elevation of plasma fVIII activity (fVIIIa) from ∼10% to ∼50–200% were observed (100% defined as the fVIIIa level of pooled platelet poor plasma from 10 wild type C57BL/6 mice) for all but the truncated monomer of D'D3 (Figure 1). Significantly increased fVIIIa levels (p<0.05, relative to pre-injection) were first observed at 1 day, peaked at 3 days, and persisted for the duration of observation. A minimal VWF fragment (S764-R1035, truncD'D3) reported to bind fVIII in vitro significantly increased plasma fVIIIa to 34% only at 3 days post-injection. Clearance of VWF fragments from circulation were determined from injections of pooled platelet poor plasma containing recombinant VWF fragments derived from hydrodynamically injected mice into naïve Vwf−/− mice. Nonlinear regression estimated the half-life for monoD'D3 (3.4hr), diD'D3 (2.1hr), multiD'D3 (2.3hr), DPro (2.8hr), and wtVWF (3.5hr). To examine how dimers of D'D3 bind fVIII, diD'D3 from HepG2 conditioned media was purified either alone or with recombinant fVIII, and negative stained samples were visualized by electron microscopy (EM). Single-particle EM analysis revealed that each subunit of the dimer binds 1 fVIII molecule. 3D EM reconstructions indicate that the light chain of fVIII directly interacts with, and potentially induces torsion in the flexible D'D3 domains of VWF. Together, these results emphasize the importance of VWF's tertiary structure in fVIII stabilization and that the N-terminal D'D3 alone is sufficient to support fVIII survival in vivo. These findings could lead to improved methods of recombinant fVIII production and the development of novel approaches to treatment for hemophilia and von Willebrand disease.
Ginsburg:Shire Pharmaceuticals: Membership on an entity's Board of Directors or advisory committees; Portola Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy; Catalyst Biosciences: Consultancy; Baxter Pharmaceuticals: benefit from payments to Children's Hosptial, Boston, and the University of Michigan Patents & Royalties; Merck Pharmaceuticals: Consultancy.
Asterisk with author names denotes non-ASH members.