Pharmacological modulation of fatty acid desaturation and of cholesterol biosynthesis in THP-1 cells

Lipids. 2003 Aug;38(8):841-6. doi: 10.1007/s11745-003-1134-5.


In THP-1 cells, simvastatin decreases, in a concentration-dependent manner, cholesterol synthesis and increases linoleic acid (LA) conversion to its long-chain derivatives, in particular to arachidonic acid, activating delta6 and delta5 fatty acid (FA) desaturases. The intermediates in cholesterol synthesis, mevalonate and geranylgeraniol, partially reverse the effects of simvastatin on the LA conversion. The aims of this work were to evaluate: (i) the correlation between cholesterol synthesis and desaturase activity and (ii) the possible involvement of protein isoprenylation in desaturase activity, assessed through pharmacological treatments. THP-1 cells were incubated with [1-14C]LA or with [1-14C]di-homo-gamma-linolenic acid (DHGLA) and treated with simvastatin or with curcumin and nicardipine, inhibitors of desaturases. Curcumin was more active than nicardipine in inhibiting LA and DHGLA conversion: 20 microM curcumin, alone or with simvastatin, totally inhibited delta6 and delta5 desaturation steps; 10 microM nicardipine only partially inhibited the enzymes, being more active on delta5 desaturase. Simvastatin treatment decreased the incorporation of acetate in cholesterol (-93.8%) and cholesterol esters (-70.2%), as expected. Curcumin and nicardipine also decreased cholesterol synthesis and potentiated simvastatin. Finally, the isoprenylation inhibitors (perillic acid and GGTI-286) neither affected the conversion of LA nor inhibited the delta5 desaturase activity. In conclusion, our results indicate that there is no direct relationship between cholesterol synthesis and desaturase activity. In fact, simvastatin decreased cholesterol synthesis and enhanced LA conversion (mainly delta5 desaturation), whereas curcumin and nicardipin decreased delta5 desaturation, with a limited effect on cholesterol synthesis.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases / drug effects*
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Nicardipine / pharmacology
  • Simvastatin / pharmacology


  • Fatty Acids
  • Cholesterol
  • Simvastatin
  • Nicardipine
  • Fatty Acid Desaturases
  • Curcumin