Low levels of PCSK9 are associated with remission in patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with anti-TNF-α: potential underlying mechanisms

Johan Frostegård, Sabbir Ahmed, Ingiäld Hafström, Sofia Ajeganova, Mizanur Rahman

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9 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: Proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9) targets the LDL-receptor (LDLR) which raises LDL-levels. In addition, PCSK9 has proinflammatory immunological effects. Here, we investigate the role of PCSK9 in relation to the inflammatory activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Methods: PCSK9-levels were determined at baseline by ELISA in 160 patients with RA not previously treated with biologics. The patients started anti-TNF-α (adalimumab, infliximab, or etanercept) treatment and were followed-up for 1 year. Disease activity was determined by DAS28. Effects of PCSK9 on cytokine production from macrophages of healthy individuals and synoviocytes from RA patients and inhibition by anti-PCSK9 antibodies were studied in supernatants by ELISA. Results: A significantly lower level of PCSK9 at baseline, p = 0.035, was observed in patients who reached remission within 1 year, defined as DAS28 < 2.6, compared to those not in remission. At 12 months of TNF-α antagonist treatment, the mean DAS28 was reduced but was significantly greater in patients with highest quartile PCSK9 (Q4) compared to those at lowest PCSK9 (Q1) in both crude (p = 0.01) and adjusted analysis (p = 0.004). In vitro, PCSK9 induced TNF-alpha and IL-1beta in macrophages and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP1) in synoviocytes. These effects were inhibited by anti-PCSK9 antibodies. Conclusions: Low levels of PCSK9 at baseline are associated with being DAS28-responder to anti-TNF-α treatment in RA. An underlying cause could be that PCSK9 stimulates the production of proinflammatory cytokines from macrophages and synoviocytes, effects inhibited by anti-PCSK9 antibodies. PCSK9 could thus play an immunological role in RA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages9
JournalArthritis Research & Therapy
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Disease activity
  • Macrophages
  • Proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin 9 (PCSK9)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Synoviocytes
  • Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)

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