Elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) in plasma are a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death worldwide. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have identified 95 loci that associate with control of lipid/cholesterol metabolism. Although GWAS results are highly provocative, direct analyses of the contribution of specific allelic variations in regulating LDL-C has been challenging due to the difficulty in accessing appropriate cells from affected patients. The primary cell type responsible for controlling cholesterol and lipid flux is the hepatocyte. Recently, we have shown that cells with hepatocyte characteristics can be generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). This finding raises the possibility of using patient-specific iPSC-derived hepatocytes to study the functional contribution of GWAS loci in regulating lipid metabolism. To test the validity of this approach, we produced iPSCs from JD a patient with mutations in the low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) gene that result in familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). We demonstrate that (1) hepatocytes can be efficiently generated from FH iPSCs; (2) in contrast to control cells, FH iPSC-derived hepatocytes are deficient in LDL-C uptake; (3) control but not FH iPSC-derived hepatocytes increase LDL uptake in response to lovastatin; and (4) FH iPSC-derived hepatocytes display a marked elevation in secretion of lipidated apolipoprotein B-100. Conclusion: Cumulatively, these findings demonstrate that FH iPSC-derived hepatocytes recapitulate the complex pathophysiology of FH in culture. These results also establish that patient-specific iPSC-derived hepatocytes could be used to definitively determine the functional contribution of allelic variation in regulating lipid and cholesterol metabolism and could potentially provide a platform for the identification of novel treatments of cardiovascular disease.
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