A genome-wide expression quantitative trait loci analysis of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin enzymes identifies a novel regulatory gene variant for FURIN expression and blood pressure

Hum Genet. 2015 Jun;134(6):627-36. doi: 10.1007/s00439-015-1546-5. Epub 2015 Mar 27.


Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin (PCSK) enzymes cleave and convert their immature substrates into biologically active forms. Polymorphisms in the PCSK genes have been reported to associate with human diseases and phenotypes, including hypercholesterolemia and blood pressure (BP), and targeting PCSKs is considered a promising future form of drug therapy. PCSK processing is readily induced upon upregulation of the enzyme, but the genetic factors contributing to PCSK expression have not been thoroughly characterized. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the genetic regulation of PCSK expression, we performed, for the first time, a genome-wide expression quantitative trait loci (eQTL) analysis using mRNA expression in >1400 human peripheral blood samples from the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study and ca. ten million single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The expression data showed clear expression for FURIN, PCSK5, PCSK7 and MBTPS1 (membrane-bound transcription factor peptidase, site 1) mRNAs in virtually all tested samples. A discovery analysis demonstrated a genome-wide significant (p < 5 × 10(-8)) association with the selected PCSK probes for 1024 variants, which were located at ten independent loci. Of these loci, 5/10 could be confirmed to regulate PCSK expression in two additional and independent sample sets. Finally, a phenotypic analysis demonstrated that a novel cis-eQTL SNP rs4702 for FURIN is strongly associated with both diastolic (p = 0.012) and systolic (p = 0.035) BP levels, as well as peripheral vascular resistance (p = 0.003). These findings indicate that the expression of the PCSK enzymes is regulated by genetic factors, which have biological roles in health and disease.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Blood Pressure*
  • Female
  • Furin* / biosynthesis
  • Furin* / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide*
  • Proprotein Convertases / biosynthesis
  • Proprotein Convertases / genetics
  • Quantitative Trait Loci*
  • Serine Endopeptidases / biosynthesis
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Subtilisins / biosynthesis
  • Subtilisins / genetics
  • Vascular Resistance / genetics


  • PCSK7 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertases
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • Subtilisins
  • membrane-bound transcription factor peptidase, site 1
  • FURIN protein, human
  • Furin