Correction of a murine model of von Willebrand disease by gene transfer
von Willebrand Diseases
von Willebrand Factor
von Willebrand disease (VWD), the most common inherited bleeding disorder in the U.S. population, is caused by defects in the expression and processing of von Willebrand factor (VWF), a blood glycoprotein required for normal hemostasis that mediates the adhesion of platelets to sites of vascular damage by binding to specific platelet glycoproteins and to constituents of exposed connective tissue. To assess whether VWF deficiency can be corrected by gene transfer, a plasmid expressing the intact 8.4-kb murine VWF coding sequence, directed by the cyto-megalovirus immediate/early promoter/enhancer, was delivered through hydrodynamic tail vein injection into VWF knockout mice (VWF(-/-)) that exhibit defects in hemostasis, including highly prolonged bleeding time and spontaneous bleeding events, closely mimicking severe human VWD. VWF antigen levels in plasma from animals receiving VWF cDNA, but not control animals, revealed normalized levels of circulating VWF that persisted for at least 1 week after injection. Western blot analysis of plasma from animals receiving VWF cDNA, but not control animals, revealed high molecular-weight multimers with patterns similar to those observed in wild-type mice. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) on RNA isolated from the livers of animals receiving VWF cDNA, but not control animals, demonstrated that VWF was expressed in the liver, and immunohistochemical analysis of the livers of treated VWF(-/-) mice revealed VWF-specific staining throughout the liver parenchyma but not in endothelial cells. Plasma from treated VWF(-/-) mice, but not control VWF(-/-) mice, supported the hypothesis that murine platelets aggregate in the presence of botrocetin. Although levels of circulating factor VIII in untreated VWF(-/-) mice were less than 10% those in wild-type mice, levels of factor VIII in VWF(-/-) animals treated with VWF cDNA, but not in control animals, were normalized to values in wild-type mice, indicating the restoration of factor VIII carrier function for VWF in treated mice that persisted for at least 1 week at higher doses of VWF cDNA. Most important, bleeding time was normalized by 48 hours after the delivery of VWF cDNA, but not by the control plasmid. These data suggest that with the use of gene transfer of VWF cDNA, VWF protein can be expressed, processed, and secreted in a physiologically active form; thus, it may be possible to correct VWD using gene transfer.