Biosynthesis of human von Willebrand factor

Haemostasis. 1988;18(4-6):224-45. doi: 10.1159/000215810.


Endothelium forms the inner lining of all blood vessels and, as a consequence, is in direct contact with the blood. Because of this and the synthesis and secretion of hemostatic components, the endothelium is able to modulate coagulation and fibrinolysis. An important hemostatic factor synthesized by endothelial cells is the von Willebrand factor (vWF). vWF is a large plasma glycoprotein which promotes the adhesion of platelets to the vessel wall after a vascular injury. vWF is initially synthesized as a pre-pro-polypeptide. During its transport to the outside of the cell, the single-chain polypeptides are assembled into multimers. The pro-polypeptide can be cleaved and also be secreted. Free pro-polypeptide is identified as von Willebrand antigen II, a plasma glycoprotein of unknown function. Plasma vWF consists of a heterogenous series of multimers, composed of an apparently single-type glycoprotein subunit, linked together by disulfide bonds. The hemostatic potency of vWF was shown to increase with increasing multimer size. Therefore, the multimeric assembly of vWF is a crucial aspect in vWF biosynthesis. Furthermore, vWF synthesized by endothelial cells can either be secreted constitutively or stored and released upon stimulation of the endothelial cell. In this review, data are presented which contribute to the understanding of the biosynthetic pathway and complex processing which vWF has to undergo before it is secreted by the endothelial cell. These data have allowed a prediction of the sequential events underlying vWF biosynthesis, processing, multimer assembly, and secretion.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Endothelium / cytology*
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Molecular Structure
  • Organelles / analysis
  • Organelles / ultrastructure
  • Peptide Biosynthesis
  • Polymers
  • von Willebrand Factor / biosynthesis*
  • von Willebrand Factor / metabolism


  • Polymers
  • von Willebrand Factor