An Allosteric Binding Site on Sortilin Regulates the Trafficking of VLDL, PCSK9, and LDLR in Hepatocytes

Robert P. Sparks, Andres S. Arango, Jermaine L. Jenkins, Wayne C. Guida, Emad Tajkhorshid, Charles E. Sparks, Janet D. Sparks, Rutilio A. Fratti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ApoB lipoproteins (apo B-Lp) are produced in hepatocytes, and their secretion requires the cargo receptor sortilin. We examined the secretion of apo B-Lp-containing very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL), an LDL progenitor. Sortilin also regulates the trafficking of the subtilase PCSK9, which when secreted binds the LDL receptor (LDLR), resulting in its endocytosis and destruction at the lysosome. We show that the site 2 binding compound (cpd984) has multiple effects in hepatocytes, including (1) enhanced Apo-Lp secretion, (2) increased cellular PCSK9 retention, and (3) augmented levels of LDLR at the plasma membrane. We postulate that cpd984 enhances apo B-Lp secretion in part through binding the lipid phosphatidylinositol 3,4,5-trisphosphate (PIP3), which is present at higher levels on circulating VLDL form fed rats relative to after fasting. We attribute the enhanced VLDL secretion to its increased binding affinity for sortilin site 1 induced by cpd984 binding site 2. This hinders PCSK9 binding and secretion, which would subsequently prevent its binding to LDLR leading to its degradation. This suggests that site 2 is an allosteric regulator of site 1 binding. This effect is not limited to VLDL, as cpd984 augments binding of the neuropeptide neurotensin (NT) to sortilin site 1. Molecular dynamics simulations demonstrate that the C-terminus of NT (Ct-NT) stably binds site 1 through an electrostatic interaction. This was bolstered by the ability of Ct-NT to disrupt lower-affinity interactions between sortilin and the site 1 ligand PIP3. Together, these data show that binding cargo at sortilin site 1 is allosterically regulated through site 2 binding, with important ramifications for cellular lipid homeostasis involving proteins such as PCSK9 and LDLR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4321-4335
Number of pages15
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 17 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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