All hydrophobic HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors induce apoptotic death in rat pulmonary vein endothelial cells

Atherosclerosis. 2003 Oct;170(2):237-43. doi: 10.1016/s0021-9150(03)00301-0.


3-Hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) are effective in patients with hypercholesterolemia to reduce risk of cardiovascular diseases, because of not only their lowering cholesterol effects but also their pleiotropic effects, such as improvement of endothelial cell dysfunction. On the other hand, statins prevent cell proliferation of various cells, including endothelial cells. We examined effects of all statins available at present on the viability of cultured rat pulmonary vein endothelial cells. Lovastatin, simvastatin, atorvastatin, fluvastatin and cerivastatin, which are hydrophobic statins, markedly reduced cell viability associated with DNA fragmentation, DNA laddering and activation of caspase-3, suggesting apoptotic cell death. Pravastatin, which is a hydrophilic statin, however, did not induce cell apoptosis. Apoptosis induced by hydrophobic statins was associated with activation of apoptosis-related intracellular signal transduction systems; attenuation of localization of RhoA to the membrane, induction of Rac1, and increase in phosphorylation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase and c-Jun. Endothelial cell apoptosis is underlying the improvement of the endothelial dysfunction with hydrophobic statins.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases / metabolism
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA Fragmentation / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / cytology*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Hydrophobic and Hydrophilic Interactions
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / toxicity*
  • Mevalonic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates / pharmacology
  • Pulmonary Veins* / cytology
  • Rats
  • Sesquiterpenes


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Polyisoprenyl Phosphates
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • farnesyl pyrophosphate
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases
  • Casp3 protein, rat
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspases
  • GTP-Binding Proteins
  • geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate
  • Mevalonic Acid