Research Highlights

A human APOC3 missense variant and monoclonal antibody accelerate apoC-III clearance and lower triglyceride-rich lipoprotein levels


Sumeet A Khetarpal, Xuemei Zeng, John S Millar, Cecilia Vitali, Amritha Varshini Hanasoge Somasundara, Paolo Zanoni, James A Landro, Nicole Barucci, William J Zavadoski, Zhiyuan Sun, Hans de Haard, Ildikó V Toth, Gina M Peloso, Pradeep Natarajan, Marina Cuchel, Sissel Lund-Katz, Michael C Phillips, Alan R Tall, Sekar Kathiresan, Paul DaSilva-Jardine, Nathan A Yates, & Daniel J Rader

Nature Medicine 23. (21 August 2017): 1086-1094. 

Recent large-scale genetic sequencing efforts have identified rare coding variants in genes in the triglyceride-rich lipoprotein (TRL) clearance pathway that are protective against coronary heart disease (CHD), independently of LDL cholesterol (LDL-C) levels1. Insight into the mechanisms of protection of these variants may facilitate the development of new therapies for lowering TRL levels. The gene APOC3 encodes apoC-III, a critical inhibitor of triglyceride (TG) lipolysis and remnant TRL clearance2. Here we report a detailed interrogation of the mechanism of TRL lowering by the APOC3Ala43Thr (A43T) variant, the only missense (rather than protein-truncating) variant in APOC3reported to be TG lowering and protective against CHD3, 4, 5. We found that both human APOC3A43T heterozygotes and mice expressing human APOC3 A43T display markedly reduced circulating apoC-III levels. In mice, this reduction is due to impaired binding of A43T apoC-III to lipoproteins and accelerated renal catabolism of free apoC-III. Moreover, the reduced content of apoC-III in TRLs resulted in accelerated clearance of circulating TRLs. On the basis of this protective mechanism, we developed a monoclonal antibody targeting lipoprotein-bound human apoC-III that promotes circulating apoC-III clearance in mice expressing human APOC3 and enhances TRL catabolism in vivo. These data reveal the molecular mechanism by which a missense variant in APOC3 causes reduced circulating TG levels and, hence, protects from CHD. This protective mechanism has the potential to be exploited as a new therapeutic approach to reduce apoC-III levels and circulating TRL burden.