von Willebrand disease (vWD), one of the most common bleeding disorders in humans, is manifested as a quantitative or qualitative defect in von Willebrand factor (vWF), an adhesive glycoprotein (GP) with critical hemostatic functions. Except for the rare severely affected patient with a gene deletion as etiology of the disease, the molecular basis for vWD is not known. We studied the molecular basis for vWD in a breeding colony of pigs with a disease closely resembling the human disorder. The porcine vWF gene is similar in size and complexity to its human counterpart, and no gross gene deletion or rearrangement was evident as the pathogenesis of porcine vWD. A restriction fragment- length polymorphism (RFLP) within the porcine vWF gene was identified with the restriction endonuclease HindIII, and 22/35 members of the pedigree were analyzed for the polymorphic site. Linkage between the vWF locus and the vWD phenotype was established with a calculated LOD score of 5.3 (1/200,000 probability by chance alone), with no crossovers identified. These findings indicate that porcine vWD is due to a molecular defect within (or near) the vWF locus, most likely representing a point mutation or small insertion/deletion within the vWF gene.

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