Proapoptotic effect of atorvastatin on stimulated rabbit smooth muscle cells

Roberta Baetta, Elena Donetti, Carmen Comparato, Monica Calore, Alessandra Rossi, Chiara Teruzzi, Rodolfo Paoletti, Remo Fumagalli, Maurizio R. Soma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The in vitro and in vivo activity of atorvastatin and other 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMGCoA) reductase inhibitors (fluvastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin) has been investigated. Atorvastatin, fluvastatin, pravastatin and simvastatin caused a significant and dose-dependent (0.1-50 μM) reduction in cell multiplication of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC) in cultures associated with the retardation of cycling cells in the G1 and G2/M compartments at 24 h, a phenomenon leading to apoptosis (programmed cell death) in several experimental in vitro models. The effects on the cell cycle resulted in a strong inhibition of cell proliferation at 48 h, followed by apoptosis when incubation was prolonged to 72 h as assessed by nuclei morphology and cytofluorimetric analysis of DNA. The apoptotic effect observed for the statins is completely prevented by the addition of exogenous mevalonate at a 100 μM concentration. In vivo SMC proliferation was stimulated by applying a silastic collar to the outside surface of carotid arteries in normocholesterolemic rabbits in the presence of an anatomically intact endothelium. The positioning of the collar promoted apoptosis in control vessels as assessed by Terminal Deoxynucleotidyl Transferase-dUTP-Biotin Nick-End Labeling (TUNEL) assay. The pre-treatment with 5 mg kg-1 per day of atorvastatin before collar insertion strongly increased the number of TUNEL-positive cells, suggesting a pro-apoptotic effect of HMGCoA reductase inhibitors also in vivo, even though cell DNA rearrangement still needs to be excluded. No apoptotic signal was detectable in sham operated arteries with no collar in either control or atorvastatin-treated rabbits. These data indicate that HMGCoA reductase inhibitors effect on the arterial wall may involve the modulation of both cell proliferation and programmed cell deaths supporting a possible role of statins in the prevention of early lesion and restenosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-121
Number of pages7
JournalPharmacological Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997


  • Apoptosis
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Atorvastatin
  • HMGCoA reductase inhibitors
  • Smooth muscle cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


Dive into the research topics of 'Proapoptotic effect of atorvastatin on stimulated rabbit smooth muscle cells'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this