Ascorbic acid enhances low-density lipoprotein receptor expression by suppressing proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin 9 expression

J Biol Chem. 2020 Nov 20;295(47):15870-15882. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA120.015623. Epub 2020 Sep 10.


Ascorbic acid, a water-soluble antioxidant, regulates various biological processes and is thought to influence cholesterol. However, little is known about the mechanisms underpinning ascorbic acid-mediated cholesterol metabolism. Here, we determined if ascorbic acid can regulate expression of proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin 9 (PCSK9), which binds low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) leading to its intracellular degradation, to influence low-density lipoprotein (LDL) metabolism. At cellular levels, ascorbic acid inhibited PCSK9 expression in HepG2 and Huh7 cell lines. Consequently, LDLR expression and cellular LDL uptake were enhanced. Similar effects of ascorbic acid on PCSK9 and LDLR expression were observed in mouse primary hepatocytes. Mechanistically, ascorbic acid suppressed PCSK9 expression in a forkhead box O3-dependent manner. In addition, ascorbic acid increased LDLR transcription by regulating sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2. In vivo, administration of ascorbic acid reduced serum PCSK9 levels and enhanced liver LDLR expression in C57BL/6J mice. Reciprocally, lack of ascorbic acid supplementation in L-gulono-γ-lactone oxidase deficient (Gulo -/-) mice increased circulating PCSK9 and LDL levels, and decreased liver LDLR expression, whereas ascorbic acid supplementation decreased PCSK9 and increased LDLR expression, ameliorating LDL levels in Gulo -/- mice fed a high fat diet. Moreover, ascorbic acid levels were negatively correlated to PCSK9, total and LDL levels in human serum samples. Taken together, these findings suggest that ascorbic acid reduces PCSK9 expression, leading to increased LDLR expression and cellular LDL uptake. Thus, supplementation of ascorbic acid may ameliorate lipid profiles in ascorbic acid-deficient species.

Keywords: FoxO3a; LDL; LDLR; PCSK9; ascorbic acid; forkhead box P3 (FOXP3).; lipoprotein metabolism; lipoprotein receptor; low-density lipoprotein); proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / drug effects*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • L-Gulonolactone Oxidase / genetics
  • L-Gulonolactone Oxidase / metabolism
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / genetics
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / biosynthesis*
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / genetics
  • Receptors, LDL / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, LDL / genetics


  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Receptors, LDL
  • L-Gulonolactone Oxidase
  • PCSK9 protein, human
  • Pcsk9 protein, mouse
  • Proprotein Convertase 9
  • Ascorbic Acid