Objective: A number of studies have shown that statins decrease morbidity and mortality in patients with cardiovascular diseases. The anti-inflammatory effects of statins have recently been implicated in the clinical benefit that can be obtained in the treatment of atherosclerosis. Little is known about the mechanisms by which statins counteract inflammation.
Methods and results: In this study, we asked whether simvastatin can influence in vitro and in vivo production of the proinflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1. A total of 107 hypercholesterolemic patients were treated with simvastatin. As measured by ELISA, serum levels of cytokines significantly decreased after 6 weeks of treatment (P<0.05). Furthermore, simvastatin decreased the expression of IL-6, IL-8, and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 mRNA in peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Similar results were obtained in vitro by using cultured human umbilical vein endothelial cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy normolipemic donors. Exposure to simvastatin, atorvastatin, or cerivastatin caused downregulation of the expression of cytokine mRNA in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, all statins tested were able to reduce the concentrations of cytokines in cellular and extracellular fractions of human umbilical vein endothelial cells (P<0.05).
Conclusions: Our data show that simvastatin is anti-inflammatory through the downregulation of cytokines in the endothelium and leukocytes. These effects may explain some of the clinical benefits of these drugs in the treatment of atherosclerosis.