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Circ Res. 2005 Dec 9;97(12):1232-5.

Rho GTPases, statins, and nitric oxide.

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Cardiovascular Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA.


The lipid-lowering drugs, 3-hydroxy-3-methylgulutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors or statins, are used in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Recent experimental and clinical studies suggest that statins may exert vascular protective effects beyond cholesterol reduction. For example, statins improve endothelial function by cholesterol-dependent and -independent mechanisms. The cholesterol-independent or "pleiotropic" effects of statins include the upregulation and activation of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS). Because statins inhibit an early step in the cholesterol biosynthetic pathway, they also inhibit the synthesis of isoprenoids such as farnesylpyrophosphate and geranylgeranylpyrophosphate, which are important posttranslational lipid attachments for intracellular signaling molecules such as the Rho GTPases. Indeed, decrease in Rho GTPase responses as a consequence of statin treatment increases the production and bioavailability of endothelium-derived NO. The mechanism involves, in part, Rho/Rho-kinase (ROCK)-mediated changes in the actin cytoskeleton, which leads to decreases in eNOS mRNA stability. The regulation of eNOS by Rho GTPases, therefore, may be an important mechanism underlying the cardiovascular protective effect of statins.

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