Article

The E32K variant of PCSK9 exacerbates the phenotype of familial hypercholesterolaemia by increasing PCSK9 function and concentration in the circulation

Department of Lipidology, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kanazawa University, Takara-machi 13-1, Kanazawa 920-8640, Japan.
Atherosclerosis (Impact Factor: 3.97). 11/2009; 210(1):166-72. DOI: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2009.11.018
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) regulates cholesterol trafficking by mediating degradation of cell-surface LDL receptors (LDLR). Gain-of-function PCSK9 mutations are known to increase plasma LDL-C levels. We attempted to find gain-of-function PCSK9 mutations in Japanese subjects and determine the frequency and impacts of these mutations, especially on circulating PCSK9 and LDL-C levels.
PCR-SSCP followed by direct sequence analysis was performed for all 12 exons and intronic junctions of the PCSK9 in 55 subjects with clinically diagnosed familial hypercholesterolaemia (clinical-FH), who were confirmed to have no LDLR mutations. Among the mutations detected, PCSK9 E32K was likely to be a gain-of-function mutation, and screening was performed by PCR-RFLP in clinical-FH and general Japanese controls. The levels of PCSK9 in plasma from subjects and in media of HepG2 cells transfected with PCSK9 constructs were measured by ELISA.
We detected 7 PCSK9 variants, including E32K. The frequency of PCSK9 E32K in clinical-FH (6.42%) was significantly higher than that in controls (1.71%). Three cases representing homozygous FH phenotypes were double heterozygous for PCSK9 E32K and LDLR C183S, C292X or K790X. Two cases were true homozygous for PCSK9 E32K; to our knowledge, these are the first true homozygotes for gain-of-function PCSK9 mutations reported to date. The PCSK9 E32K mutant had over 30% increased levels of PCSK9 in plasma from the subjects and in media of transiently transfected HepG2 cells as compared with those in controls. Furthermore, LDL-C levels in the PCSK9 E32K true homozygotes and heterozygotes were 2.10- and 1.47-fold higher than those in controls with comparable circulating PCSK9 levels, respectively, suggesting enhanced function of PCSK9 E32K.
We found 2 true homozygotes for PCSK9 E32K and 3 double heterozygotes for PCSK9 E32K and LDLR mutations associated with autosomal dominant hypercholesterolaemia. This study provided evidence that PCSK9 E32K significantly affects LDL-C levels via increased mass and function of PCSK9, and could exacerbate the clinical phenotypes of patients carrying LDLR mutations.

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