The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between circulating PCSK9 (proprotein convertase subtilisin kexin type 9) and FCHL (familial combined hyperlipidaemia) and, when positive, to determine the strength of its heritability. Plasma PCSK9 levels were measured in FCHL patients (n=45), NL (normolipidaemic) relatives (n=139) and their spouses (n=72). In addition, 11 FCHL patients were treated with atorvastatin to study the response in PCSK9 levels. PCSK9 levels were higher in FCHL patients compared with NL relatives and spouses: 96.1 compared with 78.7 and 82.0 ng/ml (P=0.004 and P=0.002 respectively). PCSK9 was significantly associated with both TAG (triacylglycerol) and apolipoprotein B levels (P<0.001). The latter relationship was accounted for by LDL (low-density lipoprotein)–apolipoprotein B (r=0.31, P=0.02), not by VLDL (very-low-density lipoprotein)–apolipoprotein B (r=0.09, P=0.49) in a subgroup of subjects (n=59). Heritability calculations for PCSK9 using SOLAR and FCOR software yielded estimates of 67–84% respectively (P<0.0001). PCSK9 increased from 122 to 150 ng/ml in 11 FCHL patients treated with atorvastatin (40 mg) once daily for 8 weeks (P=0.018). In conclusion, plasma PCSK9 is a heritable trait associated with both FCHL diagnostic hallmarks. These results, combined with the significant rise in PCSK9 levels after statin therapy, warrant further studies in order to unravel the exact role of PCSK9 in the pathogenesis and treatment of this highly prevalent genetic dyslipidaemia.

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