A region of the human von Willebrand factor (VWF) gene between -2812 and the end of the first intron (termed vWF2) was previously shown to direct expression in the endothelium of capillaries and a subset of larger blood vessels in the heart and skeletal muscle. Here, our goal was to delineate the DNA sequences responsible for this effect. A series of constructs containing deletions or mutations of vWF2 coupled to LacZ were targeted to the Hprt locus of mice, and the resulting animals were analyzed for reporter gene expression. The findings demonstrate that DNA sequences between -843 and -620 are necessary for expression in capillary but not large vessel endothelium in heart and skeletal muscle. Further, expression of VWF in capillaries and larger vessels of both tissues required the presence of a native or heterologous intron. In vitro assays implicated a role for ERG-binding ETS motif at -56 in mediating basal expression of VWF. In Hprt-targeted mice, mutation of the ETS consensus motif resulted in loss of LacZ expression in the endothelium of the heart and skeletal muscle. Together, these data indicate that distinct DNA modules regulate vascular bed-specific expression of VWF.
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