Implication of the proprotein convertase NARC-1/PCSK9 in the development of the nervous system

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Neural apoptosis-regulated convertase-1/proprotein convertase subtilisin-kexin like-9 (NARC-1/PCSK9) is a proprotein convertase recently described to play a major role in cholesterol homeostasis through enhanced degradation of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) and possibly in neural development. Herein, we investigated the potential involvement of this proteinase in the development of the CNS using mouse embryonal pluripotent P19 cells and the zebrafish as models. Time course quantitative RT–PCR analyses were performed following retinoic acid (RA)-induced neuroectodermal differentiation of P19 cells. Accordingly, the mRNA levels of NARC-1/PCSK9 peaked at day 2 of differentiation and fell off thereafter. In contrast, the expression of the proprotein convertases subtilisin kexin isozyme 1/site 1 protease and Furin was unaffected by RA, whereas that of PC5/6 and PC2 increased within and/or after the first 4 days of the differentiation period respectively. This pattern was not affected by the cholesterogenic transcription factor sterol regulatory element-binding protein-2, which normally up-regulates NARC-1/PCSK9 mRNA levels in liver. Furthermore, in P19 cells, RA treatment did not affect the protein level of the endogenous LDLR. This agrees with the unique expression pattern of NARC-1/PCSK9 in the rodent CNS, including the cerebellum, where the LDLR is not significantly expressed. Whole-mount in situ hybridization revealed that the pattern of expression of zebrafish NARC-1/PCSK9 is similar to that of mouse both in the CNS and periphery. Specific knockdown of zebrafish NARC-1/PCSK9 mRNA resulted in a general disorganization of cerebellar neurons and loss of hindbrain–midbrain boundaries, leading to embryonic death at ∼ 96 h after fertilization. These data support a novel role for NARC-1/PCSK9 in CNS development, distinct from that in cholesterogenic organs such as liver.

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