Statin-induced Krüppel-like factor 2 expression in human and mouse T cells reduces inflammatory and pathogenic responses

J Clin Invest. 2010 Jun;120(6):1961-70. doi: 10.1172/JCI41384. Epub 2010 May 3.


The transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 2 (KLF2) is required for the quiescent and migratory properties of naive T cells. Statins, a class of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, display pleiotropic immunomodulatory effects that are independent of their lipid-lowering capacity and may be beneficial as therapeutic agents for T cell-mediated inflammatory diseases. Statins upregulate KLF2 expression in endothelial cells, and this activity is associated with an antiinflammatory phenotype. We therefore hypothesized that the immunomodulatory effects of statins are due, in part, to their direct effects on T cell KLF2 gene expression. Here we report that lipophilic statin treatment of mouse and human T cells increased expression of KLF2 through a HMG-CoA/prenylation-dependent pathway. Statins also diminished T cell proliferation and IFN-gamma expression. shRNA blockade of KLF2 expression in human T cells increased IFN-gamma expression and prevented statin-induced IFN-gamma reduction. In a mouse model of myocarditis induced by heart antigen-specific CD8+ T cells, both statin treatment of the T cells and retrovirally mediated overexpression of KLF2 in the T cells had similar ameliorating effects on disease induction. We conclude that statins reduce inflammatory functions and pathogenic activity of T cells through KLF2-dependent mechanisms, and this pathway may be a potential therapeutic target for cardiovascular diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acyl Coenzyme A
  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / immunology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / immunology
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation / genetics
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism*
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Lymphocyte Activation / genetics
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Prenylation
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / immunology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Acyl Coenzyme A
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • KLF2 protein, human
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factors
  • 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A