Ossabaw Pigs With a PCSK9 Gain-of-Function Mutation Develop Accelerated Coronary Atherosclerotic Lesions: A Novel Model for Preclinical Studies

J Am Heart Assoc. 2018 Mar 23;7(6):e006207. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.117.006207.


Background: Ossabaw pigs are unique miniature swine with genetic predisposition to develop metabolic syndrome and coronary atherosclerosis after extended periods receiving atherogenic diets. We have hypothesized that transgenic Ossabaw swine expressing chimp PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin-like/kexin type 9) containing the D374Y gain of function would develop familial hypercholesterolemia and coronary artery plaques more rapidly than Landrace swine with the same transgene.

Methods and results: Ossabaw and Landrace PCSK9 gain-of-function founders were generated by Sleeping Beauty transposition and cloning. Histopathologic findings in the Ossabaw founder animal showed more advanced plaques and higher stenosis than in the Landrace founder, underscoring the Ossabaw genetic predisposition to atherosclerosis. We chose to further characterize the Ossabaw PCSK9 gain-of-function animals receiving standard or atherogenic diets in a 6-month longitudinal study using computed tomography, magnetic resonance (MR) imaging, intravascular ultrasound, and optical coherence tomography, followed by pathological analysis of atherosclerosis focused on the coronary arteries. The Ossabaw model was consistently hypercholesterolemic, with or without dietary challenge, and by 6 months had consistent and diffuse fibrofatty or fibroatheromatous plaques with necrosis, overlying fibrous caps, and calcification in up to 10% of coronary plaques.

Conclusions: The Ossabaw PCSK9 gain-of-function model provides consistent and robust disease development in a time frame that is practical for use in preclinical therapeutic evaluation to drive innovation. Although no animal model perfectly mimics the human condition, this genetic large-animal model is a novel tool for testing therapeutic interventions in the context of developing and advanced coronary artery disease.

Keywords: PCSK9; atherosclerosis; coronary artery disease; pig.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coronary Artery Disease / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Artery Disease / enzymology
  • Coronary Artery Disease / genetics*
  • Coronary Artery Disease / pathology
  • Coronary Stenosis / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Stenosis / enzymology
  • Coronary Stenosis / genetics*
  • Coronary Stenosis / pathology
  • Coronary Vessels / diagnostic imaging
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism
  • Coronary Vessels / pathology
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Fibrosis
  • Gain of Function Mutation*
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / enzymology
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia Type II / genetics
  • Necrosis
  • Pan troglodytes / genetics
  • Phenotype
  • Plaque, Atherosclerotic*
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / genetics*
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / metabolism
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Swine / genetics*
  • Swine, Miniature / genetics*
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Calcification / diagnostic imaging
  • Vascular Calcification / enzymology
  • Vascular Calcification / genetics
  • Vascular Calcification / pathology


  • Proprotein Convertase 9