Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis is a lung disease with limited therapeutic options that is characterized by pathological fibroblast activation and aberrant lung remodeling with scar formation. YAP (Yes-associated protein) is a transcriptional coactivator that mediates mechanical and biochemical signals controlling fibroblast activation. In this study, we developed a high-throughput small-molecule screen for YAP inhibitors in primary human lung fibroblasts. Multiple HMG-CoA (hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A) reductase inhibitors (statins) were found to inhibit YAP nuclear localization via induction of YAP phosphorylation, cytoplasmic retention, and degradation. We further show that the mevalonate pathway regulates YAP activation, and that simvastatin treatment reduces fibrosis markers in activated human lung fibroblasts and in the bleomycin mouse model of pulmonary fibrosis. Finally, we show that simvastatin modulates YAP in vivo in mouse lung fibroblasts. Our results highlight the potential of small-molecule screens for YAP inhibitors and provide a mechanism for the antifibrotic activity of statins in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Keywords: HMG-CoA reductase inhibitor; Hippo pathway; drug screening; fibroblast; idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.