The proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) regulates plasma LDL cholesterol levels by binding to the liver LDL receptor (LDLR) and promoting its degradation. Therefore, PCSK9 has become a compelling new therapeutic target for lipid lowering and the prevention of cardiovascular disease. PCSK9 contains two regions of conformational flexibility, the N-terminal regions of the prodomain and of the catalytic domain. The recognition that the latter region, the so-called P′ helix, is able to transition from an α-helical to a disordered state gave rise to new strategies to develop small molecule inhibitors of PCSK9 for lipid lowering. In the ordered state the P′ helix is buried in a groove of the PCSK9 catalytic domain located next to the main LDLR binding site. The transition to a disordered state leaves the groove site vacated and accessible for compounds to antagonize LDLR binding. By use of a groove-directed phage display strategy we were able to identify several groove-binding peptides. Based on structural information of PCSK9-peptide complexes, a minimized groove-binding peptide was generated and utilized as an anchor to extend towards the adjacent main LDLR binding site, either by use of a phage-displayed peptide extension library, or by appending organic moieties to yield organo-peptides. Both strategies led to antagonists with pharmacologic activities in cell-based assays. The intricate bipartite mechanism of the potent organo-peptide inhibitors was revealed by structural studies, showing that the core peptide occupies the N-terminal groove, while the organic moiety interacts with the LDLR binding site to create antagonism. These findings validate the PCSK9 groove as an attractive target site and should inspire the development of a new class of small molecule antagonists of PCSK9.

You do not currently have access to this content.