Direct effects of statins on the vascular wall

Alberto Corsini, Franco Pazzucconi, Lorenzo Arnaboldi, Pascal Pfister, Remo Fumagalli, Rodolfo Paoletti, Cesare R. Sirtori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The beneficial effects of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG- CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) on coronary events have generally been attributed to their hypocholesterolemic properties. Mevalonate and other intermediates of cholesterol synthesis (isoprenoids) are necessary for cell proliferation and other important cell functions; thus effects other than cholesterol reduction may help to explain the antiatherosclerotic properties of statins. Recently we provided in vitro and in vivo evidence of decreased smooth-muscle cell (SMC) proliferation and migration by fluvastatin and simvastatin, but not by pravastatin, independent of plasma cholesterol reduction. The ability of fluvastatin to interfere with arterial SMC proliferation at therapeutic concentrations (0.1-1 μM) prompted us to investigate the pharmacologic activity of sera from 10 patients treated with fluvastatin, 40 mg once daily, on the proliferation of cultured human arterial myocytes. Pravastatin, 40 mg once daily, displays a lipid-lowering activity similar to that of fluvastatin without affecting SMC proliferation and was investigated as a control for assessing this non-lipid-related effect of fluvastatin. Fluvastatin and pravastatin, given for 6 days to patients with type IIa hypercholesterolemia, resulted in a similar decrease in low- density-lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. However, the addition of 15% whole- blood sera from patients treated with fluvastatin to the culture medium resulted in a 43% inhibition of cholesterol synthesis in SMCs (p <0.01) that mirrored the pharmacokinetic profile of fluvastatin. When SMC proliferation was investigated, a significant inhibition of cell growth (-30%; p <0.01) was detected with sera obtained 6 h after the last dose. No effect on SMC proliferation or cholesterol biosynthesis was observed when sera from patients treated with pravastatin were evaluated. These results suggest that statins exert a direct antiproliferative effect on the arterial wall, beyond their effects on plasma lipids, which could prevent significant cardiovascular disease.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)773-778
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Pharmacology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1998


  • Cholesterol synthesis
  • Fluvastatin
  • HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors
  • Myocyte proliferation
  • Pravastatin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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