Caffeine blocks SREBP2-induced hepatic PCSK9 expression to enhance LDLR-mediated cholesterol clearance

Nat Commun. 2022 Feb 9;13(1):770. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-28240-9.


Evidence suggests that caffeine (CF) reduces cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. However, the mechanism by which this occurs has not yet been uncovered. Here, we investigated the effect of CF on the expression of two bona fide regulators of circulating low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc) levels; the proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) and the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR). Following the observation that CF reduced circulating PCSK9 levels and increased hepatic LDLR expression, additional CF-derived analogs with increased potency for PCSK9 inhibition compared to CF itself were developed. The PCSK9-lowering effect of CF was subsequently confirmed in a cohort of healthy volunteers. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that CF increases hepatic endoplasmic reticulum (ER) Ca2+ levels to block transcriptional activation of the sterol regulatory element-binding protein 2 (SREBP2) responsible for the regulation of PCSK9, thereby increasing the expression of the LDLR and clearance of LDLc. Our findings highlight ER Ca2+ as a master regulator of cholesterol metabolism and identify a mechanism by which CF may protect against CVD.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Cholesterol / metabolism*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / metabolism
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Hepatocytes
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism / drug effects
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / genetics
  • Proprotein Convertase 9 / metabolism*
  • Receptors, LDL / genetics
  • Receptors, LDL / metabolism
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 2 / pharmacology*


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • LDLR protein, human
  • Receptors, LDL
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Protein 2
  • Caffeine
  • Cholesterol
  • PCSK9 protein, human
  • Proprotein Convertase 9