Statins more than cholesterol lowering agents in Alzheimer disease: their pleiotropic functions as potential therapeutic targets

Biochem Pharmacol. 2014 Apr 15;88(4):605-16. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2013.10.030. Epub 2013 Nov 11.


Alzheimer disease (AD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by severe cognitive impairment, inability to perform activities of daily living and mood changes. Statins, long known to be beneficial in conditions where dyslipidemia occurs by lowering serum cholesterol levels, also have been proposed for use in neurodegenerative conditions, including AD. However, it is not clear that the purported effectiveness of statins in neurodegenerative disorders is directly related to cholesterol-lowering effects of these agents; rather, the pleiotropic functions of statins likely play critical roles. The aim of this review is to provide an overview on the new discoveries about the effects of statin therapy on the oxidative and nitrosative stress levels as well as on the modulation of the heme oxygenase/biliverdin reductase (HO/BVR) system in the brain. We propose a novel mechanism of action for atorvastatin which, through the activation of HO/BVR-A system, may contribute to the neuroprotective effects thus suggesting a potential therapeutic role in AD and potentially accounting for the observation of decreased AD incidence with persons on statin.

Keywords: Alzheimer disease; Biliverdin reductase; Cognition; Heme oxygenase; Oxidative stress; Statin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing) / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Nitrosation
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-CH Group Donors / metabolism
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Heme Oxygenase (Decyclizing)
  • Oxidoreductases Acting on CH-CH Group Donors
  • biliverdin reductase