We measured the turnover rates of the LDLR (low-density lipoprotein receptor) and PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) in mice by metabolic labeling with heavy water and mass spectrometry.
Approach and Results
In liver of mice fed high-cholesterol diets, LDLR mRNA levels and synthesis rates were markedly lower with complete suppression of cholesterol synthesis and higher cholesterol content, consistent with the Brown-Goldstein model of tissue cholesterol homeostasis. We observed markedly lower PCSK9 mRNA levels and synthesis rates in liver and lower concentrations and synthesis rates in plasma. Hepatic LDLR half-life (t½) was prolonged, consistent with an effect of reduced PCSK9, and resulted in no reduction in hepatic LDLR content despite reduced mRNA levels and LDLR synthesis rates. These changes in PCSK9 synthesis complement and expand the well-established model of tissue cholesterol homeostasis in mouse liver, in that reduced synthesis and levels of PCSK9 counterbalance lower LDLR synthesis by promoting less LDLR catabolism, thereby maintaining uptake of LDL cholesterol into liver despite high intracellular cholesterol concentrations.
Lower hepatic synthesis and secretion of PCSK9, an SREBP2 (sterol response element binding protein) target gene, results in longer hepatic LDLR t½ in response to cholesterol feeding in mice in the face of high intracellular cholesterol content. PCSK9 modulation opposes the canonical lowering of LDLR mRNA and synthesis by cholesterol surplus and preserves LDLR levels. The physiological and therapeutic implications of these opposing control mechanisms over liver LDLR are of interest and may reflect subservience of hepatic cholesterol homeostasis to whole body cholesterol needs.