A cryo-EM structure shows that the A1 domain is necessary for forming VWF helical tubules matching those in Weibel-Palade bodies.
The A1 domain has a role in intracellular VWF supramolecular assembly in addition to platelet binding following secretion and activation.
The von Willebrand factor (VWF) glycoprotein is stored in tubular form in Weibel-Palade bodies (WPBs) prior to secretion from endothelial cells into the bloodstream. The organization of VWF in the tubules promotes formation of covalently linked VWF polymers and enables orderly secretion without polymer tangling. Recent studies have described the high-resolution structure of helical tubular cores formed in vitro by the D1D2 and D´D3 amino-terminal protein segments of VWF. Here we show that formation of tubules with the helical geometry observed for VWF in intracellular WPBs requires also the VWA1 (A1) domain. We reconstituted VWF tubules from segments containing the A1 domain and discovered it to be inserted between helical turns of the tubule, altering helical parameters and explaining the increased robustness of tubule formation when A1 is present. The conclusion from this observation is that the A1 domain has a direct role in VWF assembly, along with its known activity in hemostasis post-secretion.