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Variant increases ER chaperones GRP78 and GRP94 and protects against liver injury

Individuals harboring the loss-of-function (LOF) proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 Gln152His variation (PCSK9Q152H) have low circulating low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels and are therefore protected against cardiovascular disease (CVD). This uncleavable form of proPCSK9, however, is retained in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) of liver hepatocytes, where it would be expected to contribute to ER storage disease (ERSD), a heritable condition known to cause systemic ER stress and liver injury. Here, we examined liver function in members of several French-Canadian families known to carry the PCSK9Q152H variation. We report that PCSK9Q152H carriers exhibited marked hypocholesterolemia and normal liver function despite their lifelong state of ER PCSK9 retention. Mechanistically, hepatic overexpression of PCSK9Q152H using adeno-associated viruses in male mice greatly increased the stability of key ER stress-response chaperones in liver hepatocytes and unexpectedly protected against ER stress and liver injury rather than inducing them. Our findings show that ER retention of PCSK9 not only reduced CVD risk in patients but may also protect against ERSD and other ER stress–driven conditions of the liver. In summary, we have uncovered a cochaperone function for PCSK9Q152H that explains its hepatoprotective effects and generated a translational mouse model for further mechanistic insights into this clinically relevant LOF PCSK9 variant.



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