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J Lipid Res. 2010 Nov;51(11):3359-63. doi: 10.1194/jlr.P009860. Epub 2010 Aug 16.

Fasting reduces plasma proprotein convertase, subtilisin/kexin type 9 and cholesterol biosynthesis in humans.

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  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Dallas, TX, USA.


Proprotein convertase, subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9), a key regulator of plasma LDL-cholesterol (LDL-c) and cardiovascular risk, is produced in liver and secreted into plasma where it binds hepatic LDL receptors (LDLR), leading to their degradation. PCSK9 is transcriptionally activated by sterol response element-binding protein (SREBP)-2, a transcription factor that also activates all genes for cholesterol synthesis as well as the LDLR. Here we investigated the relationship between plasma PCSK9 levels and the lathosterol-to-cholesterol ratio, a marker of cholesterol biosynthesis, in 18 healthy subjects during a 48 h fast. In all individuals, plasma PCSK9 levels declined steadily during the fasting period, reaching a nadir at 36 h that was ∼58% lower than levels measured in the fed state (P < 0.001). Similarly, the lathosterol-to-cholesterol ratio declined in parallel with plasma PCSK9 concentrations during the fast, reaching a nadir at 36 h that was ∼28% lower than that measured in the fed state (P = 0.024). In summary, fasting has a marked effect on plasma PCSK9 concentrations, which is mirrored by measures of cholesterol synthesis in humans. Inasmuch as cholesterol synthesis and PCSK9 are both regulated by SREBP-2, these results suggest that plasma PCSK9 levels may serve as a surrogate marker of hepatic SREBP-2 activity in humans.

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