Computational Design and Biological Evaluation of Analogs of Lupin Peptide P5 Endowed with Dual PCSK9/HMG-CoAR Inhibiting Activity

Pharmaceutics. 2022 Mar 18;14(3):665. doi: 10.3390/pharmaceutics14030665.


(1) Background: Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin 9 (PCSK9) is responsible for the degradation of the hepatic low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR), which regulates the circulating cholesterol level. In this field, we discovered natural peptides derived from lupin that showed PCSK9 inhibitory activity. Among these, the most active peptide, known as P5 (LILPHKSDAD), reduced the protein-protein interaction between PCSK9 and LDLR with an IC50 equals to 1.6 µM and showed a dual hypocholesterolemic activity, since it shows complementary inhibition of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMG-CoAR). (2) Methods: In this study, by a computational approach, the P5 primary structure was optimized to obtain new analogs with improved affinity to PCSK9. Then, biological assays were carried out for fully characterizing the dual cholesterol-lowering activity of the P5 analogs by using both biochemical and cellular techniques. (3) Results: A new peptide, P5-Best (LYLPKHSDRD) displayed improved PCSK9 (IC50 0.7 µM) and HMG-CoAR (IC50 88.9 µM) inhibitory activities. Moreover, in vitro biological assays on cells demonstrated that, not only P5-Best, but all tested peptides maintained the dual PCSK9/HMG-CoAR inhibitory activity and remarkably P5-Best exerted the strongest hypocholesterolemic effect. In fact, in the presence of this peptide, the ability of HepG2 cells to absorb extracellular LDL was improved by up to 254%. (4) Conclusions: the atomistic details of the P5-Best/PCSK9 and P5-Best/HMG-CoAR interactions represent a reliable starting point for the design of new promising molecular entities endowed with hypocholesterolemic activity.

Keywords: HMG-CoA reductase; MM-GBSA; PCSK9; drug design; dual activity; hypercholesterolemia; lupin; peptide.