Diet-induced hepatic steatosis abrogates cell-surface LDLR by inducing de novo PCSK9 expression in mice
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The worldwide prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasing rapidly. Although this condition is generally benign, accumulating evidence now suggests that patients with NAFLD are also at increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD); the leading cause of death in developed nations. Despite the well-established role of the liver as a central regulator of circulating low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, a known driver of CVD, the mechanism(s) by which hepatic steatosis contributes to CVD remains elusive. Interestingly, a recent study has shown that circulating proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) levels correlate positively with liver steatosis grade. Given that PCSK9 degrades the LDL receptor (LDLR) and prevents the removal of LDL from the blood into the liver, in the present study we examined the effect of hepatic steatosis on LDLR expression and circulating LDL cholesterol levels. We now report that in a manner consistent with findings in patients, diet-induced steatosis increases circulating PCSK9 levels as a result of de novo expression in mice. We also report the finding that steatosis abrogates hepatic LDLR expression and increases circulating LDL levels in a PCSK9-dependent manner. These findings provide important mechanistic insights as to how hepatic steatosis modulates lipid regulatory genes, including PCSK9 and the LDLR, and also highlights a novel mechanism by which liver disease may contribute to CVD.
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