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Stroke. 2003 Feb;34(2):551-7.

Withdrawal of statin treatment abrogates stroke protection in mice.

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Klinik und Poliklinik für Neurologie, Charité, Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.



Statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A [HMG-CoA] reductase inhibitors) reduce stroke damage independent of lipid lowering by upregulation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Acute withdrawal of statin treatment may suppress endothelial NO production and impair vascular function.


To test this hypothesis, we treated 129/SV mice with atorvastatin (10 mg/kg) for 14 days and then withdrew treatment.


Treatment with atorvastatin conferred stroke protection by 40% after filamentous occlusion of the middle cerebral artery followed by reperfusion. Withdrawal of statin treatment, however, resulted in the loss of stroke protection after 2 and 4 days. In mouse aortas and brain vasculature, statins upregulated eNOS message 2.3- and 1.7-fold, respectively, as measured by reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. Withdrawal of statins resulted in 5- and 2.7-fold downregulation of eNOS in aorta and brain, respectively, after 2 days. Statin treatment decreased RhoA GTPase membrane expression to 48%, while withdrawal of statins resulted in 4-fold increase of RhoA in the membrane. Moreover, platelet factor 4 and beta-thromboglobulin in plasma were significantly downregulated by statin treatment, but withdrawal of statins resulted in a 2.9- and 3.1-fold upregulation after 2 days, respectively. Thrombus formation induced by ligature of the inferior vena cava was significantly reduced by statin treatment. When statin treatment was withdrawn, however, protection was lost between 2 and 4 days.


Acute termination of statin treatment results in a rapid loss of protection in mouse models of cerebral ischemia and thrombus formation independent of lipid lowering. In patients with acute or impending stroke, withdrawal of statins may impair outcome.

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