A model for the in vivo clearance of normal and mutant forms of human von Willebrand factor (vWF) has been established using catheterized rats. vWF clearance rates in rat plasma were determined by quantitation of reduced vWF subunits on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE), and multimeric vWF was analyzed using nondenaturing SDS-agarose gels. Normal vWF derived from human umbilical vein endothelial cells displayed a biphasic pattern of clearance, with half times of 35 minutes (T 1/2 a; SD 15. min.) and 245 minutes (T 1/2 b; SD 76. min.); metabolic clearance rate = 0.65%/minute. High molecular weight multimers of vWF were cleared more rapidly than dimeric vWF. vWF containing the S1613P mutation found in some type 2A von Willebrand disease (vWD) patients was observed to undergo proteolysis in vivo resulting in a reduction of high molecular weight vWF and concomitant appearance of rapidly-migrating satellite species, although the overall clearance rate of vWF antigen was similar to wild type vWF. These results provide direct in vivo evidence that the S1613P mutation causes the characteristic type 2A vWD phenotype. Full-length recombinant vWF produced from transfected Chinese hamster ovary cells was cleared at a similar rate to endothelial cell-derived vWF, and recombinant vWF devoid of O-linked carbohydrates was cleared significantly faster. vWF devoid of sulfate was cleared at a similar rate as wild type vWF, indicating the sulfate moiety of vWF does not regulate in vivo clearance. This animal model should prove useful in subsequent in vivo analysis of additional forms of vWD and in the development of protease inhibitor therapy for 2A vWD.

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