High cholesterol is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease1. Currently, no drug lowers cholesterol through directly promoting cholesterol excretion. Human genetic studies have identified that the loss-of-function Asialoglycoprotein receptor 1 (ASGR1) variants associate with low cholesterol and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease2. ASGR1 is exclusively expressed in liver and mediates internalization and lysosomal degradation of blood asialoglycoproteins3. The mechanism by which ASGR1 affects cholesterol metabolism is unknown. Here, we find that Asgr1 deficiency decreases lipid levels in serum and liver by stabilizing LXRα. LXRα upregulates ABCA1 and ABCG5/G8, which promotes cholesterol transport to high-density lipoprotein and excretion to bile and faeces4, respectively. ASGR1 deficiency blocks endocytosis and lysosomal degradation of glycoproteins, reduces amino-acid levels in lysosomes, and thereby inhibits mTORC1 and activates AMPK. On one hand, AMPK increases LXRα by decreasing its ubiquitin ligases BRCA1/BARD1. On the other hand, AMPK suppresses SREBP1 that controls lipogenesis. Anti-ASGR1 neutralizing antibody lowers lipid levels by increasing cholesterol excretion, and shows synergistic beneficial effects with atorvastatin or ezetimibe, two widely used hypocholesterolaemic drugs. In summary, this study demonstrates that targeting ASGR1 upregulates LXRα, ABCA1 and ABCG5/G8, inhibits SREBP1 and lipogenesis, and therefore promotes cholesterol excretion and decreases lipid levels.
© 2022. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.