How to roll an endothelial cigar: the biogenesis of Weibel-Palade bodies

Traffic. 2004 Feb;5(2):69-78. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0854.2004.00157.x.


Weibel-Palade bodies (WPB) are the regulated secretory organelles of endothelial cells. These cigar-shaped membrane-bound structures function in both hemostasis and inflammation but their biogenesis is poorly understood. Here, we review what is currently known about their formation. The content of WPBs is dominated by the hemostatic factor von Willebrand factor (VWF), whose complex biogenesis ends in the formation of high molecular weight multimers. VWF is also organized into proteinaceous tubules which underlie the striated interior of WPBs as seen in the EM. VWF expression is necessary for formation of WPBs, and its heterologous expression can even lead to the specific recruitment of WPB membrane proteins, including the leukocyte receptor P-selectin, the tetraspanin CD63, and Rab27a. Unusually, the VWF propeptide is implicated in the biogenesis of WPBs, being essential for formation of the storage compartment. The elongation of the cigars and the formation of the tubules are determined by non-covalent interactions between pro- and mature VWF proteins. Surprisingly, high molecular weight multimers seem neither necessary nor sufficient to trigger formation of a storage compartment, and do not seem to have any role in WPB biogenesis. Von Willebrand's disease, usually caused by mutations within VWF, has provided many of the insights into the way in which VWF drives the formation of these organelles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Exocytosis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation
  • P-Selectin / metabolism
  • Protein Precursors / genetics
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism
  • Protein Transport / physiology
  • Weibel-Palade Bodies / chemistry
  • Weibel-Palade Bodies / metabolism*
  • Weibel-Palade Bodies / ultrastructure
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • rab27 GTP-Binding Proteins
  • von Willebrand Diseases / classification
  • von Willebrand Diseases / genetics
  • von Willebrand Diseases / metabolism
  • von Willebrand Factor / genetics
  • von Willebrand Factor / metabolism


  • Membrane Proteins
  • P-Selectin
  • Protein Precursors
  • rab27 GTP-Binding Proteins
  • von Willebrand Factor
  • RAB27A protein, human
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins