Selenoproteins, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and the consequences: revisiting of the mevalonate pathway

Trends Cardiovasc Med. 2004 Oct;14(7):273-81. doi: 10.1016/j.tcm.2004.08.003.


3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors (statins) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha activators (fibrates) are the backbone of pharmacologic hypercholesterolemia and dyslipidemia treatment. Many of their clinical effects, however, are still enigmatic. This article describes how a side road of the mevalonate pathway, characterized in recent years, can rationalize a major fraction of these unexplained observations. This side road is the enzymatic isopentenylation of selenocysteine-tRNA([Ser]Sec) (Sec-tRNA), the singular tRNA to decode the unusual amino acid selenocysteine. The functionally indispensable isopentenylation of Sec-tRNA requires a unique intermediate from the mevalonate pathway, isopentenyl pyrophosphate, which concomitantly constitutes the central building block for cholesterol biosynthesis, and whose formation is suppressed by statins and fibrates. The resultant inhibition of Sec-tRNA isopentenylation profoundly decreases selenoprotein expression. This effect might seamlessly explain the immunosuppressive, redox, endothelial, sympatholytic, and thyroidal effects of statins and fibrates as well as their common side effects and drug interactions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology*
  • Mevalonic Acid / metabolism*
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / adverse effects
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors / pharmacology*
  • Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • RNA, Transfer, Amino Acyl
  • Selenoproteins


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptors
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Transfer, Amino Acyl
  • Selenoproteins
  • selenocysteinyl-tRNA
  • Mevalonic Acid