Impact of protease inhibitors on circulating PCSK9 levels in HIV-infected antiretroviral-naive patients from an ongoing prospective cohort

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Abstract

Objective:

The study aims to assess the association between proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9), a major regulator of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) homeostasis, and HIV-related dyslipidaemia in a cohort of HIV-positive (HIV+) patients under protease inhibitors.

Methods:

Plasma PCSK9 levels were measured in 103 HIV+ patients before and after initiating protease inhibitor-based antiretroviral therapy (ART), and in 90 HIV-negative controls matched for age and sex. PCSK9 was measured by ELISA. HIV+ patients who were not virologically suppressed at follow-up or were on lipid-lowering therapy were excluded.

Results:

In HIV+ (median age 36 years; 77.7% men), PCSK9 levels did not increase after protease inhibitor exposure (median 14 months) (279.5 ng/ml before, 289.6 ng/ml after; P = 0.49) and were significantly elevated versus controls at all timepoints (adjusted P value before and after: <0.05). After protease inhibitor initiation, total cholesterol, LDL-C and HDL cholesterol levels increased, but LDL-C remained lower versus controls. At baseline, PCSK9 levels were positively associated with immunodeficiency and the severity of HIV disease [HIV-1 viral load (P = 0.01), CD4+ T-cell count <200/μl, P = 0.002], stage C HIV disease (P = 0.0002). In protease inhibitor-treated patients, PCSK9 levels were no longer associated with HIV-related factors but with total cholesterol (P = 0.0006), LDL-C (P = 0.01), HDL cholesterol (P = 0.01), triglycerides (P = 0.05) and glycaemia (P = 0.006).

Conclusion:

PSCK9 levels are elevated in HIV+ patients. In ART-naive patients, the relationship between PCSK9 levels and infection severity suggests an effect of HIV disease. After initiating protease inhibitor-containing ART in virologically suppressed patients, PCSK9 levels were associated with dyslipidaemia similar to controls.

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