Human atherosclerotic plaque contains smooth muscle cells (SMCs) negative for the contractile phenotype (α-smooth muscle actin) but positive for proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9). Thus, we generated rat SMCs which overexpressed human PCSK9 (SMCsPCSK9 ) with the aim of investigating the role of PCSK9 in the phenotype of SMCs. PCSK9 overexpression in SMCsPCSK9 led to a significant downregulation of the low-density lipoprotein receptor (Ldlr) as well as transgelin (Sm22α), a marker of the contractile phenotype. The cell proliferation rate of SMCsPCSK9 was significantly faster than that of the control SMCs (SMCspuro ). Interestingly, overexpression of PCSK9 did not impact the migratory capacity of SMCs in response to 10% FCS, as determined by Boyden’s chamber assay. Expression and activity of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase (Hmgcr) was significantly increased in the presence of PCSK9, both in SMCPCSK9 and after treatment with recombinant PCSK9. The transcriptional activity of sterol regulatory element-binding protein (SREBP) was also increased in the presence of PSCK9, suggesting a direct role of PCSK9 in the control of SRE-responsive genes, like HMGCR. We also observed that cholesterol biosynthesis is elevated in SMCPCSK9, potentially explaining the increased proliferation observed in these cells. Finally, concentration-dependent experiments with simvastatin demonstrated that SMCsPCSK9 were partially resistant to the antiproliferative and antimigratory effect of this drug. Taken together, these data further support a direct role of PCSK9 in proliferation, migration, and phenotypic changes in SMCs—pivotal features of atherosclerotic plaque development. We also provide new evidence on the role of PCSK9 in the pharmacological response to statins—gold standard lipid-lowering drugs with pleiotropic action.
Pcsk9 induces rat smooth muscle cell proliferation and counteracts the pleiotropic effects of simvastatin / Lupo, M. G.; Marchiano, S.; Adorni, M. P.; Zimetti, F.; Ruscica, M.; Greco, M. F.; Corsini, A.; Ferri, N.. - In: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR SCIENCES. - ISSN 1661-6596. - 22:8(2021), p. 4114.4114. [10.3390/ijms22084114]
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