Statins may enhance the proteolytic cleavage of proBDNF: implications for the treatment of depression

Med Hypotheses. 2007;68(6):1296-9. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2006.09.043. Epub 2006 Nov 13.


The family of hydroxymethylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, collectively known as statins, are used clinically to reduce plasma cholesterol levels. Recent reports indicate that statin therapy is associated with a reduced risk of depression, although the mechanism underlying this antidepressant effect is unknown. Evidence suggests that increasing central BDNF activity plays an important role in the treatment of major depression. In the nervous system, the proteolytic cleavage of pro-BDNF, a BDNF precursor, to BDNF through the tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA)-plasmin pathway represents one mechanism that can regulate the action of BDNF. In vitro studies have demonstrated that statins can induce tPA and inhibit plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, the major inhibitor of tPA. It is therefore possible that statins could act through the tPA-plasminogen pathway to increase BDNF and achieve an antidepressant effect. It is suggested that statins could be of therapeutic potential for patients with major depression: especially those that have an abnormality in the tPA-plasminogen pathway or comorbidities relating to cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, BDNF dysfunction has also been implicated in several other neuropsychiatric diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and Rett syndrome. The potential use of statins in these diseases may warrant further exploration.

MeSH terms

  • Antidepressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / metabolism*
  • Depression / drug therapy*
  • Depression / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hydrolysis
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Models, Biological*
  • Protein Precursors / metabolism*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / metabolism


  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Protein Precursors
  • brain-derived neurotrophic factor precursor
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator