Induced alternative splicing an opportunity to study PCSK9 protein isoforms at physiologically relevant concentrations

Jessica M. Cale, Kristin A. Ham, Dunhui Li, Craig S. McIntosh, Gerald F. Watts, Steve D. Wilton, May T. Aung-Htut

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Splice modulating antisense oligomers (AOs) are increasingly used to modulate RNA processing. While most are investigated for their use as therapeutics, AOs can also be used for basic research. This study examined their use to investigate internally and terminally truncated proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) protein isoforms. Previous studies have used plasmid or viral-vector-mediated protein overexpression to study different PCSK9 protein isoforms, creating an artificial environment within the cell. Here we designed and tested AOs to remove specific exons that encode for PCSK9 protein domains and produced protein isoforms at more physiologically relevant levels. We evaluated the isoforms’ expression, secretion, and subsequent impact on the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and its activity in Huh-7 cells. We found that modifying the Cis-His-rich domain by targeting exons 10 or 11 negatively affected LDL receptor activity and hence did not enhance LDL uptake although the levels of LDL receptor were increased. On the other hand, removing the hinge region encoded by exon 8, or a portion of the prodomain encoded by exon 2, have the potential as therapeutics for hypercholesterolemia. Our findings expand the understanding of PCSK9 isoforms and their impact on the LDL receptor and its activity at physiologically relevant concentrations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number19725
Number of pages11
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

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