The molecular analysis of von Willebrand disease: a guideline from the UK Haemophilia Centre Doctors’ Organisation Haemophilia Genetics Laboratory Network


Dr S. Keeney, Molecular Diagnostics Centre, Manchester Royal Infirmary, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9WL, UK.
Tel.: +44 161 276 4809; fax: +44 161 276 5989;


Summary.  von Willebrand disease (VWD) is a common autosomally inherited bleeding disorder associated with mucosal or trauma-related bleeding in affected individuals. VWD results from a quantitative or qualitative deficiency of von Willebrand factor (VWF), a glycoprotein that is essential for primary haemostasis and that carries and protects coagulation factor VIII (FVIII) in the circulation. Through characterization of the phenotype and identification of mutations in the VWF gene in patients with VWD, understanding of the genetics and biochemistry of VWF and VWD has advanced considerably. The importance of specific regions of VWF for its interaction with other components of the vasculature has been revealed, and this has facilitated the formal classification of VWD into three subtypes based upon quantitative (types 1 and 3) and qualitative (type 2) deficiency of VWF. The underlying genetic lesions and associated molecular pathology have been identified in many cases of the qualitative type 2 VWD variants (2A, 2B, 2M, 2N) and in the severe quantitative deficiency, type 3 VWD. However in the partial quantitative deficiency, type 1 VWD, the picture is less clear: there is a variable relationship between plasma levels of VWF and bleeding, there is incomplete penetrance and variable expressivity within affected families, the causative molecular defect is unknown in a substantial number of cases, and even in those cases where the causative mutation is known, the associated molecular pathology is not necessarily understood. This guideline aims to provide a framework for best laboratory practice for the genetic diagnosis of VWD, based upon current knowledge and understanding.