von Willebrand disease (vWD) type IIB is characterized by an increased reactivity of von Willebrand factor (vWF) with platelets and a lack of large multimers. Exon 28 of the vWF gene encodes for functional domains involved in the binding of vWF to GPIb, and it is presumed that the defects in type IIB vWD lie within or adjacent to these functional domains. We screened overlapping DNA fragments generated by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that spanned the 1,379 bp of exon 28 of a type IIB vWD patient using denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE). To increase the power of DGGE to detect base changes, we used the PCR to attach a G + C-rich sequence. In the type IIB patient, a DNA fragment at the 5′ end of exon 28 demonstrated homoduplex and heteroduplex complexes after DGGE, a pattern characteristic of heterozygous genes after melting and reannealing during the PCR. Sequencing of the cloned insert from the patient showed a duplication of an ATG in one gene coding for a Met at amino acids 540 to 541 in the mature vWF subunit. This duplication leads to three consecutive methionines in the patient's sequence. The duplicated Met resides within a disulfide bond loop proposed to be important in the function of the GPIb binding domain of vWF. The patient's nephew, who also has type IIB vWD, showed the same duplicated codon, linking the defect to the abnormal phenotype in this family. These nucleotide changes were not found in 100 chromosomes analyzed either by DGGE or hybridization with an allele specific oligonucleotide containing the duplicated ATG codon. In addition, the same oligonucleotide hybridized only to DNA from type IIB vWD individuals and not to DNA from normal members of the family. Therefore, we conclude that this duplicated Met modifies the GPIb binding domain of vWF and causes type IIB vWD in this family.

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