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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2000 Jan;20(1):61-9.

Improvement of nitric oxide-dependent vasodilatation by HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors through attenuation of endothelial superoxide anion formation.

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  • 1Department of Cardiovascular Physiology, University of Göttingen, Germany.


Three 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (HCRIs), atorvastatin, pravastatin, and cerivastatin, inhibited phorbol ester-stimulated superoxide anion (O(2)(-)) formation in endothelium-intact segments of the rat aorta in a time- and concentration-dependent manner (maximum inhibition of 70% after 18 hours at 1 to 10 micromol/L). The HMG-CoA reductase product mevalonic acid (400 micromol/L) reversed the inhibitory effect of the HCRIs, which, conversely, was mimicked by inactivation of p21 Rac with Clostridium sordellii lethal toxin but not by inactivation of p21 Rho with Clostridium botulinum exoenzyme (C3). A mevalonate-sensitive inhibition of phorbol ester-stimulated O(2)(-) formation by atorvastatin was also observed in porcine cultured endothelial cells and in a murine macrophage cell line. In the rat aorta, no effect of the HCRIs on protein kinase C, NADPH oxidase, or superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and expression was detected, whereas that of endothelial nitric oxide (NO) synthase was enhanced approximately 2-fold. Moreover, exposure of the segments to atorvastatin resulted in a significant improvement of endothelium-dependent NO-mediated relaxation, and this effect was abolished in the presence of SOD. Taken together, these findings suggest that in addition to augmenting endothelial NO synthesis, HCRIs inhibit endothelial O(2)(-) formation by preventing the isoprenylation of p21 Rac, which is critical for the assembly of NADPH oxidase after activation of protein kinase C. The resulting shift in the balance between NO and O(2)(-) in the endothelium improves endothelial function even in healthy blood vessels and therefore may provide a reasonable explanation for the beneficial effects of HCRIs in patients with coronary heart disease in addition to or as an alternative to the reduction in serum LDL cholesterol.

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