- Familial hypercholesterolemia (FH), an autosomal dominant disorder of LDL metabolism that is characterized by elevated LDL-cholesterol, is commonly encountered in patients with atherosclerotic coronary heart disease. Combinations of cholesterol-lowering therapies are often used to lower LDL-cholesterol in patients with FH; however, current treatment goals for LDL-cholesterol are rarely achieved in patients with homozygous FH (HoFH) and are difficult to achieve in patients with heterozygous FH (HeFH).
- Familial 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.
- In 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.
- After training as a gastroenterologist in the UK, the author became interested in lipidology while he was a research fellow in the USA and switched careers after returning home. Together with Nick Myant, he introduced the use of plasma exchange to treat familial hypercholesterolemia (FH) homozygotes and undertook non-steady state studies of LDL kinetics, which showed that the fractional catabolic rate of LDL remained constant irrespective of pool size. Subsequent steady-state turnover studies showed that FH homozygotes had an almost complete lack of receptor-mediated LDL catabolism, providing in vivo confirmation of the Nobel Prize-winning discovery by Goldstein and Brown that LDL receptor dysfunction was the cause of FH.