Background Proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PSCK9) is secreted mainly from the liver and binds to the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR), reducing LDLR availability and thus resulting in an increase in LDL-cholesterol. While the LDLR has been implicated in the cell entry process of the hepatitis C virus (HCV), overexpression of an artificial non-secreted, cell membrane-bound form of PCSK9 has also been shown to reduce surface expression of CD81, a major component of the HCV entry complex, leading to concerns that pharmacological inhibition of PCSK9 may increase susceptibility to HCV infection by increasing either CD81 or LDLR availability. Here, we evaluated effects of PCSK9 and PCSK9 blockade on CD81 levels and HCV entry with a physiologically relevant model using native secreted PCSK9 and a monoclonal antibody to PCSK9, alirocumab. Methods and Results Flow cytometry and Western blotting of human hepatocyte Huh-7 cells showed that, although LDLR levels were reduced when cells were exposed to increasing PCSK9 concentrations, there was no correlation between total or surface CD81 levels and the presence and amount of soluble PCSK9. Moreover, inhibiting PCSK9 with the monoclonal antibody alirocumab did not affect expression levels of CD81. In an in vitro model of HCV entry, addition of soluble PCSK9 or treatment with alirocumab had no effect on the ability of either lentiviral particles bearing the HCV glycoproteins or JFH-1 based cell culture virus to enter hepatocytes. Consistent with these in vitro findings, no differences were observed in hepatic CD81 levels using in vivo mouse models, including Pcsk9-/- mice compared with wild-type controls and hyperlipidemic mice homozygous for human Pcsk9 and heterozygous for Ldlr deletion, treated with either alirocumab or isotype control antibody. Conclusion These results suggest that inhibition of PCSK9 with alirocumab has no effect on CD81 and does not result in increased susceptibility to HCV entry.
Ramanathan, A., Gusarova, V., Stahl, N., Gurnett-Bander, A., & Kyratsous, C. A. (2016). Alirocumab, a therapeutic human antibody to PCSK9, Does Not Affect CD81 Levels or hepatitis c virus entry and replication into hepatocytes. PLoS ONE, 11(4). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0154498