Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Elevated plasma PCSK9 level is equally detrimental for patients with nonfamilial hypercholesterolemia and heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, irrespective of low-density lipoprotein receptor defects.

PMID 24632287


Do elevated proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) levels constitute an even greater risk for patients who already have reduced low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) levels, such as those with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia (HeFH)? As a circulating inhibitor of LDLR, PCSK9 is an attractive target for lowering LDL-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. Circulating PCSK9 levels were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in nontreated patients with HeFH carrying a D206E (n = 237), V408M (n = 117), or D154N (n = 38) LDLR missense mutation and in normolipidemic controls (n = 152). Skin fibroblasts and lymphocytes were isolated from a subset of patients and grown in 0.5% serum and mevastatin with increasing amounts of recombinant PCSK9. LDLR abundance at the cell surface was determined by flow cytometry. PCSK9 reduced LDLR expression in a dose-dependent manner in control and FH fibroblasts to similar extents, by up to 77 ± 8% and 82 ± 7%, respectively. Likewise, PCSK9 reduced LDLR abundance by 39 ± 8% in nonfamilial hypercholesterolemia (non-FH) and by 45 ± 10% in HeFH lymphocytes, irrespective of their LDLR mutation status. We found positive correlations of the same magnitude between PCSK9 and LDL-C levels in controls (beta = 0.22; p = 0.0003), D206E (beta = 0.20; p = 0.0002), V408M (beta = 0.24; p = 0.0002), and D154N (beta = 0.25; p = 0.048) patients with HeFH. The strengths of these associations were all similar. Elevated PCSK9 levels are equally detrimental for patients with HeFH or non-FH: a 100-ng/ml increase in PCSK9 will lead to an increase in LDL-C of 0.20 to 0.25 mmol/l in controls and HeFH alike, irrespective of their LDLR mutation. This explains why patients with non-FH or HeFH respond equally well to monoclonal antibodies targeting PCSK9.