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Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2012 Aug;47(2):140-8. doi: 10.1165/rcmb.2011-0411OC. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Low-dose fluvastatin reverses the hypoxic pulmonary adventitial fibroblast phenotype in experimental pulmonary hypertension.

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  • 1Scottish Pulmonary Vascular Unit, Western Infirmary, Glasgow, Scotland, UK.


Hypoxic pulmonary hypertension is a worldwide public health problem. Statins attenuate hypoxic pulmonary hypertension in animal models, but the mechanism of action and applicability of these results to human treatment are not established. In hypoxic models, pulmonary artery fibroblast proliferation contributes substantially to pulmonary vascular remodeling. We previously showed that acute hypoxic pulmonary adventitial fibroblast proliferation can be selectively inhibited by statins and p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase inhibitors. Here we used complementary chronic hypoxic and acute hypoxic coculture models to obtain necessary preclinical information regarding the utility of fluvastatin in the treatment of chronic hypoxic pulmonary hypertension. The effects of fluvastatin, cholesterol pathway intermediates, and related inhibitors on hypoxic adventitial fibroblast proliferation, p38 MAP kinase phosphorylation, and pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell proliferation were determined, using complementary chronic hypoxic rat and acute hypoxic bovine cell models. Fluvastatin reversed the proliferative phenotypic switch in adventitial fibroblasts from chronic hypoxic animals. This effect was circulation-specific, and implicated a Rac1-p38 MAP kinase signaling pathway. Coculture and conditioned media experiments also implicated this statin-sensitive signaling pathway in the release of pulmonary artery smooth muscle cell mitogens by hypoxic pulmonary adventitial fibroblasts. Treprostinil, sildenafil, and bosentan exerted no effect on the hypoxic fibroblast phenotype. Phenotypic changes (increased proliferation and mitogen release) in pulmonary artery fibroblasts during chronic hypoxia are dependent on a Rac1-p38 MAP kinase signaling pathway. The inhibition of these phenotypic changes with fluvastatin may be therapeutically relevant in high-altitude residents and in patients with hypoxic lung disease.

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