The large multimeric glycoprotein Von Willebrand factor (VWF) is best known for its role in haemostasis; however in recent years other functions of VWF have been identified, indicating that this protein is involved in multiple vascular processes. We recently described a new role for VWF in controlling angiogenesis, which may have significant clinical implications for patients with Von Willebrand disease (VWD), a genetic or acquired condition caused by the deficiency or dysfunction of VWF. VWD can be associated with angiodysplasia, a condition of degenerative blood vessels often present in the gastrointestinal tract, linked to dysregulated angiogenesis. Angiodysplasia can cause severe intractable bleeding, often refractory to conventional VWD treatments. In this review summarise the evidence showing that VWF controls angiogenesis, and review the angiogenic pathways which have been implicated in this process. We discuss the possible mechanisms though which VWF regulates angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) and integrin αvβ3, leading to signalling through vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR2), one of the most potent activators of angiogenesis. We also review the evidence that links VWF with angiodysplasia, and how the newly identified function of VWF in controlling angiogenesis may pave the way for the development of novel therapies for the treatment of angiodysplasia in congenital VWD and in acquired conditions such as Heyde syndrome.
Willebrand; angiogenesis; endothelium; angiodysplasia; gastrointestinal bleeding