Molecular and cellular function of the proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9)
The secreted protease proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) binds to low-density lipid (LDL) receptor family members LDLR, very low density lipoprotein receptor (VLDLR) and apolipoprotein receptor 2 (ApoER2), and promotes their degradation in intracellular acidic compartments. In the liver, LDLR is a major controller of blood LDL levels, whereas VLDLR and ApoER2 in the brain mediate Reelin signaling, a critical pathway for proper development of the nervous system. Expression level of PCSK9 in the brain is highest in the cerebellum during perinatal development, but is also increased in the adult brain after ischemia. The mechanism of PCSK9 function and its involvement in neuronal apoptosis is poorly understood. We show here that RNAi-mediated knockdown of PCSK9 significantly reduced the death of potassium-deprived cerebellar granule neurons (CGN), as shown by reduced levels of nuclear phosphorylated c-Jun and activated caspase-3, as well as condensed apoptotic nuclei. ApoER2 protein levels were increased in PCSK9 RNAi cells. Knockdown of ApoER2 but not of VLDLR was sufficient to reverse the protection provided by PCSK9 RNAi, suggesting that proapoptotic signaling of PCSK9 is mediated by altered ApoER2 function. Pharmacological inhibition of signaling pathways associated with lipoprotein receptors suggested that PCSK9 regulates neuronal apoptosis independently of NMDA receptor function but in concert with ERK and JNK signaling pathways. PCSK9 RNAi also reduced staurosporine-induced CGN apoptosis and axonal degeneration in the nerve growth factor-deprived dorsal root ganglion neurons. We conclude that PCSK9 potentiates neuronal apoptosis via modulation of ApoER2 levels and related anti-apoptotic signaling pathways.