The M2 module of the Cys-His-rich domain (CHRD) of PCSK9 protein is needed for the extracellular low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) degradation pathway

J Biol Chem. 2012 Dec 21;287(52):43492-501. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.394023. Epub 2012 Oct 26.


PCSK9 enhances the cellular degradation of the LDL receptor (LDLR), leading to increased plasma LDL cholesterol. This multidomain protein contains a prosegment, a catalytic domain, a hinge region, and a cysteine-histidine rich domain (CHRD) composed of three tightly packed modules named M1, M2, and M3. The CHRD is required for the activity of PCSK9, but the mechanism behind this remains obscure. To define the contribution of each module to the function of PCSK9, we dissected the CHRD structure. Six PCSK9 deletants were generated by mutagenesis, corresponding to the deletion of only one (ΔM1, ΔM2, ΔM3) or two (ΔM12, ΔM13, ΔM23) modules. Transfection of HEK293 cells showed that all deletants were well processed and expressed compared with the parent PCSK9 but that only those lacking the M2 module were secreted. HepG2 cells lacking endogenous PCSK9 (HepG2/shPCSK9) were used for the functional analysis of the extracellular or intracellular activity of PCSK9 and its deletants. To analyze the ability of the deletants to enhance the LDLR degradation by the intracellular pathway, cellular expressions revealed that only the ΔM2 deletant retains a comparable total LDLR-degrading activity to full-length PCSK9. To probe the extracellular pathway, HepG2/shPCSK9 cells were incubated with conditioned media from transfected HEK293 or HepG2/shPCSK9 cells, and cell surface LDLR levels were analyzed by FACS. The results showed no activity of any secreted deletant compared with PCSK9. Thus, although M2 is dispensable for secretion, its presence is required for the extracellular activity of PCSK9 on cell surface LDLR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Proprotein Convertase 9
  • Proprotein Convertases / genetics
  • Proprotein Convertases / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Secondary
  • Proteolysis*
  • Receptors, LDL / genetics
  • Receptors, LDL / metabolism*
  • Sequence Deletion
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Serine Endopeptidases / metabolism*


  • LDLR protein, human
  • Receptors, LDL
  • PCSK9 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertase 9
  • Proprotein Convertases
  • Serine Endopeptidases