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Metabolism. 2002 Sep;51(9):1153-60.

The effects of lovastatin on proteasome activities in highly purified rabbit 20 S proteasome preparations and mouse MC3T3-E1 osteoblastic cells.

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Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, Sepulveda, CA 91343, USA.


A number of clinical studies suggest that the use of the lipid-lowering agents collectively referred to as statins (hydroxymethyl glutaryl coenzyme A [HMG-CoA] reductase inhibitors) is associated with increased bone density, reduced fracture risk, and net bone anabolism. Statins (< or =5 micromol/L) stimulate rodent bone formation, but the mechanistic basis remains unclear. Since statins and the proteasome inhibitor lactacystin are structurally similar, and high doses (> or =40 micromol/L) of statins can inhibit the chymotryptic activity of the proteasome, it has been hypothesized that statins exert their anabolic effects on bone, in part, by inhibiting the proteasome, the major eukaryotic intracellular regulatory protease. This hypothesis conflicts with reports that statins stimulate proteasome activity and that proteasome-catalyzed degradation of specific substrates is required for cell proliferation, differentiation, and survival. Our chief objective was to determine the effects of statins (< or =10 micromol/L) on the chymotryptic activity of the proteasome in the 20 S proteasome and intact murine MC3T3-E1 cells cultured to low density (preosteoblasts) or high density (differentiated osteoblasts). Lovastatin (0.001 micromol/L to 5.0 micromol/L) stimulated the chymotryptic activity of the highly purified 20 S proteasome. Preosteoblasts and differentiated osteoblasts treated with 1, 5, or 10 micromol/L lovastatin for 1 hour exhibited morphologic abnormalities that were ameliorated by preincubation and treatment with 20 micromol/L mevalonate. The chymotryptic activity of the preosteoblast proteasome increased after 2 days of 1.0 micromol/L or 5.0 micromol/L lovastatin treatment. In addition, the DNA and protein contents of 1.0 micromol/L or 5.0 micromol/L lovastatin-treated preosteoblast cultures were lower those that observed in vehicle-, 0.01 micromol/L lovastatin-, or 0.10 micromol/L lovastatin-treated cultures. The chymotryptic activity of the proteasome was much lower in differentiated osteoblasts than in preosteoblasts. Two days of treatment with 1 micromol/L lovastatin modestly stimulated the chymotryptic activity of the proteasome in differentiated osteoblasts, but had no effects on total protein or DNA, compared to cultures treated with vehicle or lower doses of lovastatin. Thus, the data support the hypothesis that statins stimulate proteasome activities in highly purified proteasome preparations and preosteoblastic cells. Treating preosteoblastic or differentiated MC3T3-E1 cells with lovastatin concentrations > or = 1 micromol/L resulted in abnormal morphology and reduced the DNA and protein levels in preosteoblastic cultures, confirming the adverse effects of statins previously reported for other cells. In conclusion, the hypothesis that lovastatin exerts its anabolic effects on bone by inhibiting the proteasome activity of the osteoblast was refuted, and the effects of lovastatin on MC3T3-E1 cells were found to be highly dose- and development-dependent.

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