3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors upregulate inducible NO synthase expression and activity in vascular smooth muscle cells.Hypertension 2001; 38(5):1024-9H
Inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase ameliorate atherosclerosis by both cholesterol-dependent and cholesterol-independent mechanisms. We examined whether HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors affect the expression and activity of inducible NO synthase (iNOS) in cultured rat aortic vascular smooth muscle (VSM) cells. Atorvastatin (34 to 68 micromol/L) markedly increased nitrite production, an increase that was essentially abrogated by the NO synthase inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (500 micromol/L). Activity of iNOS, determined by the conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline, increased 9-fold after atorvastatin treatment. Western blot and semiquantitative reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction revealed that atorvastatin (34 to 68 micromol/L) strongly upregulated iNOS protein and mRNA levels, respectively. These concentrations of atorvastatin did not cause cytotoxicity, as judged by the cell survival rate. Similarly, simvastatin and lovastatin (34 micromol/L) caused robust upregulation of the iNOS protein level. Transfection experiments demonstrated that the -1034- to 88-bp human iNOS promoter was strongly induced by atorvastatin (34 micromol/L). Electromobility and supershift assays using a nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) consensus oligonucleotide and nuclear extracts from VSM cells as well as transfection studies using an NF-kappaB reporter plasmid suggested that the transcriptional activation of the iNOS gene by atorvastatin is not mediated via the NF-kappaB pathway. We conclude that HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors potently upregulate iNOS expression and activity in VSM cells, at least in part, by transcriptional mechanisms that do not depend on transcription factor NF-kappaB. These effects might have important implications for the impact of HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors on atherosclerosis.