A novel mechanism of action for statins against diabetes-induced oxidative stress

C. Vecchione, M. T. Gentile, A. Aretini, G. Marino, R. Poulet, A. Maffei, F. Passarelli, A. Landolfi, A. Vasta, G. Lembo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims/hypothesis: Atorvastatin exerts beneficial vascular effects in diabetes, but the underlying mechanisms are yet to be elucidated. The aim of the present study was to determine whether Rac-1 is involved in the effect of atorvastatin on oxidative stress and vascular dysfunction. Materials and methods: Using human aortic endothelial cells (HAECs) we evaluated the effect of high glucose levels on peroxide production by dihydrodichlorofluorescein and on Rac-1 activity using immunocytochemistry to detect Rac-1 translocation to the membrane. We evaluated vascular function, peroxide production by dihydroethidium and NADPH oxidase activity in vessels from atorvastatin-treated mice. Rac-1 activity was also assessed, both by immunoprecipitation of the Rac-p21-activated kinase complex and by analysis of Rac-1 translocation to the membrane. These experiments were also conducted in vessels infected with an adenoviral vector carrying a constitutively active mutant of Rac-1. Results: In HAECs exposed to high glucose levels, atorvastatin prevented oxidative stress, and this protection was associated with impaired Rac-1 activation. This effect was also observed in a murine model of diabetes mellitus. More importantly, the addition of geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP) blocked the effects of atorvastatin in both glucose-exposed HAECs and diabetic vessels. Atorvastatin failed to afford protection against vascular abnormalities in the presence of a constitutively active mutant of Rac-1. Conclusions/interpretation: The results of this study demonstrate that the vascular antioxidant effect of atorvastatin in diabetes is mediated through inhibition of Rac-1 via a reduction in GGPP. Thus, selective Rac-1 inhibition should be considered in the design of novel pharmacological strategies to reduce the impact of diabetes mellitus on vascular function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)874-880
Number of pages7
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2007


  • Atorvastatin
  • Diabetes
  • Oxidative stress
  • Rac-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism


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