PCSK9 induces a pro-inflammatory response in macrophages

Chiara Ricci, Massimiliano Ruscica, Marina Camera, Laura Rossetti, Chiara Macchi, Alessandra Colciago, Ilaria Zanotti, Maria Giovanna Lupo, Maria Pia Adorni, Arrigo F G Cicero, Federica Fogacci, Alberto Corsini, Nicola Ferri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Intraplaque release of inflammatory cytokines from macrophages is implicated in atherogenesis by inducing the proliferation and migration of media smooth muscle cells (SMCs). PCSK9 is present and released by SMCs within the atherosclerotic plaque but its function is still unknown. In the present study, we tested the hypothesis that PCSK9 could elicit a pro-inflammatory effect on macrophages. THP-1-derived macrophages and human primary macrophages were exposed to different concentrations (0.250 ÷ 2.5 µg/ml) of human recombinant PCSK9 (hPCSK9). After 24 h incubation with 2.5 µg/ml PCSK9, a significant induction of IL-1β, IL-6, TNF-α, CXCL2, and MCP1 mRNA, were observed in both cell types. Co-culture of THP-1 macrophages with HepG2 overexpressing hPCSK9 also showed the induction of TNF-α (2.4 ± 0.5 fold) and IL-1β (8.6 ± 1.8 fold) mRNA in macrophages. The effect of hPCSK9 on TNF-α mRNA in murine LDLR-/- bone marrow macrophages (BMM) was significantly impaired as compared to wild-type BMM (4.3 ± 1.6 fold vs 31.1 ± 6.1 fold for LDLR-/- and LDLR+/+, respectively). Finally, a positive correlation between PCSK9 and TNF-α plasma levels of healthy adult subjects (males 533, females 537) was observed (B = 8.73, 95%CI 7.54 ÷ 9.93, p < 0.001). Taken together, the present study provides evidence of a pro-inflammatory action of PCSK9 on macrophages, mainly dependent by the LDLR.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2267
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2 2018


  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Cytokines/metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Macrophages/immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Proprotein Convertase 9/metabolism


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