Statins are 3-hydroxy-3-methyglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors, which are prescribed extensively for cholesterol lowering in the primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Recent compelling evidence suggests that the beneficial effects of statins may not only be due to their cholesterol lowering effects, but also, to their cholesterol-independent or pleiotropic effects. Through these so-called pleiotropic effects, statins are directly involved in restoring or improving endothelial function, attenuating vascular remodeling, inhibiting vascular inflammatory response, and perhaps, stabilizing atherosclerotic plaques. These cholesterol-independent effects of statins are predominantly due to their ability to inhibit isoprenoid synthesis, the products of which are important lipid attachments for intracellular signaling molecules, such as Rho, Rac and Cdc42. In particular, inhibition of Rho and its downstream target, Rhoassociated coiled-coil containing protein kinase (ROCK), has emerged as the principle mechanisms underlying the pleiotropic effects of statins. This review provides an update of statin-mediated vascular effects beyond cholesterol lowering and highlights recent findings from bench to bedside to support the concept of statin pleiotropy.
Statin, vascular, cholesterol, inflammation, nitric oxide, rho kinase
Vascular Medicine Research Unit, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 65 Landsdowne Street, Room 275, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.