The cholesterol uptake regulator PCSK9 promotes and is a therapeutic target in APC/KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer

Chi Chun Wong*, Jian Lin Wu, Fenfen Ji, Wei Kang, Xiqing Bian, Huarong Chen, Lam Shing Chan, Simson Tsz Yat Luk, Samuel Tong, Jiaying Xu, Qiming Zhou, Dabin Liu, Hao Su, Hongyan Gou, Alvin Ho Kwan Cheung, Ka Fai To, Zongwei Cai, Jerry W. Shay, Jun Yu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Therapeutic targeting of KRAS-mutant colorectal cancer (CRC) is an unmet need. Here, we show that Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin/Kexin type 9 (PSCK9) promotes APC/KRAS-mutant CRC and is a therapeutic target. Using CRC patient cohorts, isogenic cell lines and transgenic mice, we identify that de novo cholesterol biosynthesis is induced in APC/KRAS mutant CRC, accompanied by increased geranylgeranyl diphosphate (GGPP)─a metabolite necessary for KRAS activation. PCSK9 is the top up-regulated cholesterol-related gene. PCSK9 depletion represses APC/KRAS-mutant CRC cell growth in vitro and in vivo, whereas PCSK9 overexpression induces oncogenesis. Mechanistically, PCSK9 reduces cholesterol uptake but induces cholesterol de novo biosynthesis and GGPP accumulation. GGPP is a pivotal metabolite downstream of PCSK9 by activating KRAS/MEK/ERK signaling. PCSK9 inhibitors suppress growth of APC/KRAS-mutant CRC cells, organoids and xenografts, especially in combination with simvastatin. PCSK9 overexpression predicts poor survival of APC/KRAS-mutant CRC patients. Together, cholesterol homeostasis regulator PCSK9 promotes APC/KRAS-mutant CRC via GGPP-KRAS/MEK/ERK axis and is a therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3971
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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