An Analysis of the Gut Microbiota and Related Metabolites following PCSK9 Inhibition in Statin-Treated Patients with Elevated Levels of Lipoprotein(a)

Jose A. Caparrós-Martín, Patrice Maher, Natalie C. Ward, Montserrat Saladié, Patricia Agudelo-Romero, Stephen M. Stick, Dick C. Chan, Gerald F. Watts, Fergal O’Gara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) is a leading cause of global mortality, often associated with high blood levels of LDL cholesterol (LDL-c). Medications like statins and PCSK9 inhibitors, are used to manage LDL-c levels and reduce ASCVD risk. Recent findings connect the gut microbiota and its metabolites to ASCVD development. We showed that statins modulate the gut microbiota including the production of microbial metabolites involved in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) and bile acids (BAs). Whether this pleiotropic effect of statins is associated with their antimicrobial properties or it is secondary to the modulation of cholesterol metabolism in the host is unknown. In this observational study, we evaluated whether alirocumab, a PCSK9 inhibitor administered subcutaneously, alters the stool-associated microbiota and the profiles of SCFAs and BAs. Methods. We used stool and plasma collected from patients enrolled in a single-sequence study using alirocumab. Microbial DNA was extracted from stool, and the bacterial component of the gut microbiota profiled following an amplicon sequencing strategy targeting the V3-V4 region of the 16S rRNA gene. Bile acids and SCFAs were profiled and quantified in stool and plasma using mass spectrometry. Results. Treatment with alirocumab did not alter bacterial alpha (Shannon index, p = 0.74) or beta diversity (PERMANOVA, p = 0.89) in feces. Similarly, circulating levels of SCFAs (mean difference (95% confidence interval (CI)), 8.12 [−7.15–23.36] µM, p = 0.25) and BAs (mean difference (95% CI), 0.04 [−0.11–0.19] log10(nmol mg−1 feces), p = 0.56) were equivalent regardless of PCSK9 inhibition. Alirocumab therapy was associated with increased concentration of BAs in feces (mean difference (95% CI), 0.20 [0.05–0.34] log10(nmol mg−1 feces), p = 0.01). Conclusion. In statin-treated patients, the use of alirocumab to inhibit PCSK9 leads to elevated levels of fecal BAs without altering the bacterial population of the gut microbiota. The association of alirocumab with increased fecal BA concentration suggests an additional mechanism for the cholesterol-lowering effect of PCSK9 inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2024


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