Unravelling the functional significance of PCSK9

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Purpose of reviewProprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9 (PCSK9) has emerged as a potential target for lowering plasma LDL cholesterol levels. This review summarizes recent studies published in print or online before January 2007 which have investigated the functional significance of this intriguing protease.Recent findingsIncreasing interest in PCSK9 has given rise to landmark epidemiological studies, the generation of animal models, the discovery of new human mutations, as well as numerous in-vitro studies. These studies have helped to unravel the molecular functions of PCSK9.SummaryMutations of PCSK9 are associated either with hypercholesterolemia or with hypocholesterolemia. In the latter case, the incidence of coronary heart disease is reduced, thereby demonstrating that low LDL cholesterol levels from birth are highly beneficial. PCSK9 promotes the degradation of the LDL receptor in hepatocytes apparently both intracellularly and by being a secreted protein that can bind the LDL receptor and be internalized. By virtue of its role as a major inhibitor of the LDL receptor, PCSK9 is a promising therapeutic target. Specific PCSK9 pharmacological inhibitors may prove to be useful in amplifying the well documented benefits of statins.

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