Lipoprotein metabolism in familial hypercholesterolemiaFamilial hypercholesterolemia (FH) is one of the most common genetic disorders in humans. It is an extremely atherogenic metabolic disorder characterized by lifelong elevations of circulating LDL-C levels often leading to premature cardiovascular events. In this review, we discuss the clinical phenotypes of heterozygous and homozygous FH, the genetic variants in four genes (LDLR/APOB/PCSK9/LDLRAP1) underpinning the FH phenotype as well as the most recent in vitro experimental approaches used to investigate molecular defects affecting the LDL receptor pathway.
The PCSK9 discovery, an inactive protease with varied functions in hypercholesterolemia, viral infections, and cancerIn 2003, the sequences of mammalian proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) were reported. Radiolabeling pulse-chase analyses demonstrated that PCSK9 was synthesized as a precursor (proPCSK9) that undergoes autocatalytic cleavage in the endoplasmic reticulum into PCSK9, which is then secreted as an inactive enzyme in complex with its inhibitory prodomain. Its high mRNA expression in liver hepatocytes and its gene localization on chromosome 1p32, a third locus associated with familial hypercholesterolemia, other than LDLR or APOB, led us to identify three patient families expressing the PCSK9 variants S127R or F216L.
Genetic testing for familial hypercholesterolemia—past, present, and futureIn the early 1980s, the Nobel Prize winning cellular and molecular work of Mike Brown and Joe Goldstein led to the identification of the LDL receptor gene as the first gene where mutations cause the familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) phenotype. We now know that autosomal dominant monogenic FH can be caused by pathogenic variants of three additional genes (APOB/PCSK9/APOE) and that the plasma LDL-C concentration and risk of premature coronary heart disease differs according to the specific locus and associated molecular cause.