Simvastatin Protects Human Melanocytes from H2O2-Induced Oxidative Stress by Activating Nrf2

J Invest Dermatol. 2017 Jun;137(6):1286-1296. doi: 10.1016/j.jid.2017.01.020. Epub 2017 Feb 4.


The prevention of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2)-induced oxidative stress has proved to be beneficial to vitiligo patients. Simvastatin possesses antioxidative capacity and has shown protective effect in various oxidative stress-related diseases. However, whether simvastatin can protect human melanocytes against oxidative stress has not been investigated. In this study, we initially found that pretreatment with 0.1 μmol/L to 1.0 μmol/L simvastatin led to increased cell viability and decreased cell apoptosis of melanocytes in response to H2O2. In addition, simvastatin was able to potentiate the activity of antioxidant enzymes and lessen intracellular reactive oxygen species accumulation. Furthermore, we found that simvastatin promoted the activation of nuclear erythroid 2-related factor (Nrf2) and that knockdown of Nrf2 abolished the protective effect of simvastatin against H2O2-induced oxidative damage. More importantly, the mutual enhancement between mitogen-activated protein kinase pathways and p62 contributed to simvastatin-induced Nrf2 activation in melanocytes. Finally, simvastatin showed more antioxidative capacity and better protective effect than aspirin in H2O2-treated melanocytes. Taken together, our results show that simvastatin protects human melanocytes from H2O2-induced oxidative stress by activating Nrf2, thus supporting simvastatin as a potential therapeutic agent for vitiligo.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / genetics
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / toxicity*
  • Melanocytes / cytology
  • Melanocytes / drug effects*
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / drug effects*
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / genetics
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects
  • RNA, Small Interfering / metabolism
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Signal Transduction
  • Simvastatin / pharmacology*


  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • Simvastatin
  • Hydrogen Peroxide