Objectives: HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) can modulate the formation of new blood vessels, but the reports on their contribution to angiogenesis are contradictory. Therefore, we investigated whether the effect of statins is dependent either on the concentration of the drug or on the cell type.
Methods and results: Under basal conditions human vascular smooth muscle cells (HVSMC) and microvascular endothelial cells (HMEC-1) constitutively generate and release vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). In contrast, primary macrovascular endothelial cells (HUVEC) produce minute amounts of VEGF. Different statins (atorvastatin, simvastatin and lovastatin, 1-10 micromol/l) significantly reduced basal and cytokine-, nitric oxide- or lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC)-induced VEGF synthesis in HMEC-1 and HVSMC. Interestingly, at the same concentrations statins upregulated VEGF generation in HUVEC. Furthermore, statins exerted dual, concentration-dependent influence on angiogenic activities of HUVEC as determined by tube formation assay. At low concentrations (0.03-1 micromol/l) the pro-angiogenic activity of statins is prevalent, whereas at higher concentrations statins inhibit angiogenesis, despite increasing VEGF synthesis.
Conclusion: Our data show that statins exert concentration- and cell type-dependent effects on angiogenic activity of endothelial cells and on VEGF synthesis. The data are of relevance for elucidating the differential activity of statins on angiogenesis in cardiovascular diseases and cancer.