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Arch Neurol. 2012 Oct;69(10):1303-9.

Inhibition of interferon-beta responses in multiple sclerosis immune cells associated with high-dose statins.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.



To determine whether statins affect type 1 interferon responses in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).


Study effects of atorvastatin on type 1 interferon responses in Jurkat cells, mononuclear cells (MNCs) from therapy-naive patients with RRMS in vitro, and MNCs from interferon-treated RRMS patients in vivo in 4 conditions: no drug, statin only, interferon-beta only, and statin added on to interferon-beta therapy.


The study examined clinically stable patients with RRMS: 21 therapy-naive patients and 14 patients receiving interferon-beta with a statin.


Statin effects on in vitro and in vivo interferon-beta-induced STAT1 transcription factor activation, expression of interferon-stimulated proteins in MNCs, and serum type 1 interferon activity.


In vitro, atorvastatin dose dependently inhibited expression of interferon-stimulated P-Y-STAT1 by 44% (P < .001), interferon regulatory factor 1 protein by 30% (P=.006), and myxovirus resistance 1 protein by 32% (P=.004) compared with no-statin control in MNCs from therapy-naive RRMS patients. In vivo, 9 of 10 patients who received high-dose statins (80 mg) had a significant reduction in interferon-beta therapy-induced serum interferon-α/β activity, whereas only 2 of 4 patients who received medium- dose statins (40 mg) had reductions. High-dose add-on statin therapy significantly blocked interferon-beta function, with less P-Y-STAT1 transcription factor activation, and reduced myxovirus resistance 1 protein and viperin protein production. Medium doses of statins did not change STAT1 activation.


High-dose add-on statin therapy significantly reduces interferon-beta function and type 1 interferon responses in RRMS patients. These data provide a putative mechanism for how statins could counteract the beneficial effects of interferon-beta and worsen disease.

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