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J Immunol. 2004 Jun 15;172(12):7377-84.

Simvastatin augments lipopolysaccharide-induced proinflammatory responses in macrophages by differential regulation of the c-Fos and c-Jun transcription factors.

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Institute for Systems Biology, 1441 North 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103-8904, USA.


The 3-hydroxyl-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, or statins, are a widely used class of drugs for cholesterol reduction. The reduction in mortality and morbidity in statin-treated patients is incompletely explained by their effects on cholesterol, and an anti-inflammatory role for the drug has been proposed. We report in this work that, unexpectedly, simvastatin enhances LPS-induced IL-12p40 production by murine macrophages, and that it does so by activating the IL-12p40 promoter. Mutational analysis and dominant-negative expression studies indicate that both C/EBP and AP-1 transcription factors have a crucial role in promoter activation. This occurs via a c-Fos- and c-Jun-based mechanism; we demonstrate that ectopic expression of c-Jun activates the IL-12p40 promoter, whereas expression of c-Fos inhibits IL-12p40 promoter activity. Simvastatin prevents LPS-induced c-Fos expression, thereby relieving the inhibitory effect of c-Fos on the IL-12p40 promoter. Concomitantly, simvastatin induces the phosphorylation of c-Jun by the c-Jun N-terminal kinase, resulting in c-Jun-dependent activation of the IL-12p40 promoter. This appears to be a general mechanism because simvastatin also augments LPS-dependent activation of the TNF-alpha promoter, perhaps because the TNF-alpha promoter has C/EBP and AP-1 binding sites in a similar configuration to the IL-12p40 promoter. The fact that simvastatin potently augments LPS-induced IL-12p40 and TNF-alpha production has implications for the treatment of bacterial infections in statin-treated patients.

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