Circulating PCSK9 destines low-density lipoprotein receptor for degradation in lysosomes, resulting in increased LDL cholesterol. Accordingly, it is an attractive drug target for hypercholesterolemia, and results from clinical trials are promising. While the physiological role of PCSK9 in cholesterol metabolism is well described, its complex mechanism of action remains poorly understood, although it is known to depend on intracellular trafficking. We here identify sortilin, encoded by the hypercholesterolemia-risk gene SORT1, as a high-affinity sorting receptor for PCSK9. Sortilin colocalizes with PCSK9 in the trans-Golgi network and facilitates its secretion from primary hepatocytes. Accordingly, sortilin-deficient mice display decreased levels of circulating PCSK9, while sortilin overexpression in the liver confers increased plasma PCSK9. Furthermore, circulating PCSK9 and sortilin were positively correlated in a human cohort of healthy individuals, suggesting that sortilin is involved in PCSK9 secretion in humans. Taken together, our findings establish sortilin as a critical regulator of PCSK9 activity.
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