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J Biol Chem. 2014 Jan 10;289(2):942-55. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M113.514067. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

Identification of a small peptide that inhibits PCSK9 protein binding to the low density lipoprotein receptor.

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From the Departments of Early Discovery Biochemistry.


PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9) is a negative regulator of the hepatic LDL receptor, and clinical studies with PCSK9-inhibiting antibodies have demonstrated strong LDL-c-lowering effects. Here we screened phage-displayed peptide libraries and identified the 13-amino acid linear peptide Pep2-8 as the smallest PCSK9 inhibitor with a clearly defined mechanism of inhibition that has been described. Pep2-8 bound to PCSK9 with a KD of 0.7 μm but did not bind to other proprotein convertases. It fully restored LDL receptor surface levels and LDL particle uptake in PCSK9-treated HepG2 cells. The crystal structure of Pep2-8 bound to C-terminally truncated PCSK9 at 1.85 Å resolution showed that the peptide adopted a strand-turn-helix conformation, which is remarkably similar to its solution structure determined by NMR. Consistent with the functional binding site identified by an Ala scan of PCSK9, the structural Pep2-8 contact region of about 400 Å(2) largely overlapped with that contacted by the EGF(A) domain of the LDL receptor, suggesting a competitive inhibition mechanism. Consistent with this, Pep2-8 inhibited LDL receptor and EGF(A) domain binding to PCSK9 with IC50 values of 0.8 and 0.4 μm, respectively. Remarkably, Pep2-8 mimicked secondary structural elements of the EGF(A) domain that interact with PCSK9, notably the β-strand and a discontinuous short α-helix, and it engaged in the same β-sheet hydrogen bonds as EGF(A) does. Although Pep2-8 itself may not be amenable to therapeutic applications, this study demonstrates the feasibility of developing peptidic inhibitors to functionally relevant sites on PCSK9.


Crystal Structure; LDL Receptor; PCSK9; Peptides; Phage Display; Protease; Protein-Protein Interactions

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