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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Aug 19;105(33):11915-20. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0805434105. Epub 2008 Aug 11.

Therapeutic RNAi targeting PCSK9 acutely lowers plasma cholesterol in rodents and LDL cholesterol in nonhuman primates.

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Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, 300 Third Street, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.


Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) regulates low density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) protein levels and function. Loss of PCSK9 increases LDLR levels in liver and reduces plasma LDL cholesterol (LDLc), whereas excess PCSK9 activity decreases liver LDLR levels and increases plasma LDLc. Here, we have developed active, cross-species, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) capable of targeting murine, rat, nonhuman primate (NHP), and human PCSK9. For in vivo studies, PCSK9 and control siRNAs were formulated in a lipidoid nanoparticle (LNP). Liver-specific siRNA silencing of PCSK9 in mice and rats reduced PCSK9 mRNA levels by 50-70%. The reduction in PCSK9 transcript was associated with up to a 60% reduction in plasma cholesterol concentrations. These effects were shown to be mediated by an RNAi mechanism, using 5'-RACE. In transgenic mice expressing human PCSK9, siRNAs silenced the human PCSK9 transcript by >70% and significantly reduced PCSK9 plasma protein levels. In NHP, a single dose of siRNA targeting PCSK9 resulted in a rapid, durable, and reversible lowering of plasma PCSK9, apolipoprotein B, and LDLc, without measurable effects on either HDL cholesterol (HDLc) or triglycerides (TGs). The effects of PCSK9 silencing lasted for 3 weeks after a single bolus i.v. administration. These results validate PCSK9 targeting with RNAi therapeutics as an approach to specifically lower LDLc, paving the way for the development of PCSK9-lowering agents as a future strategy for treatment of hypercholesterolemia.

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