3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors ameliorate atherosclerotic diseases in several models of vascular disease. This is largely due to their ability to reduce plasma cholesterol levels in vivo. Proliferation of cellular components is one of the major events in the development and progression of atherosclerotic lesions. We recently demonstrated that oxidized low density lipoprotein (Ox-LDL), a likely atherogenic lipoprotein present in vivo, is capable of inducing macrophage growth in vitro. In the present study, we investigated the effect of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors, simvastatin and pravastatin, on Ox-LDL-induced macrophage growth. Our results demonstrated that these inhibitors effectively suppressed Ox-LDL-induced macrophage growth with concentrations required for 50% inhibition by simvastatin and pravastatin being 0.1 and 80 microM, respectively, and that this inhibitory effect was reversed by mevalonate but not by squalene. Under these conditions, simvastatin did not affect the endocytic degradation of Ox-LDL, nor subsequent accumulation of intracellular cholesteryl esters. Our results suggest that a non-cholesterol metabolites(s) of mevalonate pathway may play an important role in Ox-LDL-induced macrophage growth. Since it is well known that macrophage-derived foam cells are the key cellular element in the early stage of atherosclerosis, a significant inhibition of Ox-LDL-induced macrophage growth by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors in vitro, particularly simvastatin, may also explain, at least in part, their anti-atherogenic action in vivo.