Thyroid hormone receptor agonists reduce serum cholesterol independent of the LDL receptor
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The majority of cholesterol reduction therapies, such as the statin drugs, work primarily by inducing the expression of hepatic low-density lipoprotein receptors (LDLRs), rendering these therapeutics only partially effective in animals lacking LDLRs. Although thyroid hormones and their synthetic derivatives, often referred to as thyromimetics, have been clearly shown to reduce serum cholesterol levels, this action has generally been attributed to their ability to increase expression of hepatic LDLRs. Here we show for the first time that the thyroid hormone T3 and the thyroid hormone receptor-ß selective agonists GC-1 and KB2115 are capable of markedly reducing serum cholesterol in mice devoid of functional LDLRs by inducing Cyp7a1 expression and stimulating the conversion and excretion of cholesterol as bile acids. Based on this LDLR-independent mechanism, thyromimetics such as GC-1 and KB2115 may represent promising cholesterol-lowering therapeutics for the treatment of diseases such as homozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, a rare genetic disorder caused by a complete lack of functional LDLRs, for which there are limited treatment options because most therapeutics are only minimally effective. Copyright © 2012 by The Endocrine Society.