von Willebrand disease (VWD) is the most common bleeding disorder known in humans, with type 1 VWD representing the majority of cases. Unlike the other variant forms of VWD, type 1 disease represents a complex genetic trait, influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.
To evaluate the contribution of the von Willebrand factor (VWF) and ABO blood group loci to the type 1 VWD phenotype, and to assess the potential for locus heterogeneity in this condition, we have performed genetic linkage and association studies on a large, unselected type 1 VWD population.
We initially collected samples from 194 Canadian type 1 VWD families for analysis. After the exclusion of families found to have either type 2 or type 3 VWD, and pedigrees with samples from single generations, linkage and association analysis was performed on 155 type 1 VWD families.
The linkage study has shown a low heterogeneity LOD score of 2.13 with the proportion of families linked to the VWF gene estimated to be 0.41. Linkage was not detected to the ABO locus in this type 1 VWD population. In the family-based association test, significant association was found between the type 1 VWD phenotype, the quantitative traits, VWF:Ag, VWF:RCo, and FVIII:C and the ABO 'O' and 'A' alleles and the VWF codon 1584 variant. There was also weak association with the -1185 promoter polymorphism and VWF:Ag, VWF:RCo, and FVIII:C plasma levels. These studies provide further evidence to support the role for genetic loci other than VWF and ABO in the pathogenesis of type 1 VWD.