Keep recycling going: New approaches to reduce LDL-C

Biochem Pharmacol. 2019 Jun;164:336-341. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2019.04.003. Epub 2019 Apr 4.


Hypercholesterolemia represents a leading cause in the development of atherosclerotic plaques, increasing the risk for ACVS. It actually counts as a major cause of cardiovascular disease etiopathogenesis. The causes of hypercholesterolemia are multifactorial, spanning from genetic constitution, age, sex, to sedentary lifestyle and diets rich in sugars and lipids. Although dietary restriction in saturated fats, increased exercise, and other modification in lifestyle represent a first-line approach to treat very initial stages in hypercholesterolemia, most patients will require the addition of pharmacological agents. Pharmacological approaches include inhibition of cholesterol synthesis, decreased fat absorption from the GI tract, and increased degradation of FA. These strategies present a series of side effects, low therapeutic efficiency in some patients, and reduced tolerability. One of the major goals in treatment for hypercholesterolemia is to decrease the levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL), while maintaining those of high density lipoproteins (HDL). LDL particles contain about 80% of lipids, most of it cholesterol and cholesteryl esters, and 20% of the ApoB-100 protein. LDL carries cholesterol to the tissues, to be incorporated to biological membranes, or to be transformed to steroids. Excess of LDL translates into increased levels of circulating cholesterol particles and accumulation in certain tissues, especially vascular tissue, initiating a fatty streak, which may evolve to an atheroma, causing a series of cardiovascular problems, including impaired circulation, high blood pressure, increased cardiac workload, and coronary artery disease. It is essential to prevent LDL accumulation into the bloodstream to avoid the formation of these fatty streaks and the initiation of a cascade that will lead to the development of atherosclerosis. In healthy individuals. Under physiological conditions, LDL is effectively removed from circulation through receptor-mediated endocytosis. LDL clearance involves binding to its receptor, LDLR, which enables the internalization of the LDL particle and drives its degradation in lysosomes. Once the LDL particle is degraded, the free receptor recycles to the plasma membrane, and captures new LDL particles. Adequate levels of LDLR are essential to remove the excess of cholesterol-laden LDL. Proprotein convertase, subtilysin kexin type 9 (PCSK-9), expressed in liver and intestine, binds to LDLR, and internalized. Once inside the cell, PCSK-9 catalyzes the proteolysis of LDLR, preventing its recycling to the cell surface, and effectively decreasing the number of LDLR, notoriously decreasing the ability to clear LDL from circulation. Levels of PCSK-9 varies with age, gender, and levels of insulin, glucose, and triglycerides. Loss-of-function mutations in PCSK-9 gene invariably translates into lower levels of LDL, and decreased risk of developing coronary artery disease. Conversely, increased activity or expression of this enzyme leads to hypercholesterolemia. Inhibition of PCSK9 has proven to be successful in decreasing LDL levels and risk of the development of hypercholesterolemia with its associated higher risk for ASCVD. Patient with gain-of-function mutations in the PCSK9 undoubtedly benefit from therapies based on PCSK-9 inhibitors. However, millions of patients show statin intolerance, or cannot be efficiently controlled by statins alone- the most prevalent therapy for hypeprcholesterolemia. This commentary will evaluate the possibilities, caveats and future directions in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia, and therapies with combination of drugs.

Keywords: Low density lipoprotein receptor; PCSK-9; Proprotein convertases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Atherosclerosis / blood
  • Atherosclerosis / drug therapy
  • Cholesterol, LDL / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Hypercholesterolemia / blood*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Lipid Metabolism / physiology


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors