Statins inhibit hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase, decrease plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. They can also exert adverse effects, mostly affecting skeletal muscle, ranging from mild myalgia to rhabdomyolysis.
Based on a PubMed search until December 2014, this review summarizes studies on statin effects on muscle mitochondrial morphology and function in the context of myopathy.
Possible mechanisms of statin-induced myopathy include lower cholesterol synthesis and production of prenylated proteins, reduced dolichols and increased atrogin-1 expression. Statin-treated patients frequently feature decreased muscle coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) contents, suggesting that statins might impair mitochondrial function. In cell cultures, statins diminish muscle oxygen consumption, promote mitochondrial permeability transient pore opening and generate apoptotic proteins. Animal models confirm the statin-induced decrease in muscle CoQ10, but reveal no changes in mitochondrial enzyme activities. Human studies yield contradictory results, with decreased CoQ10, elevated lipids, decreased enzyme activities in muscle and impaired maximal oxygen uptake in several but not all studies. Some patients are susceptible to statin-induced myopathy due to variations in genes encoding proteins involved in statin uptake and biotransformation such as the solute carrier organic anion transporter family member 1B1 (SLCO1B1) or cytochrome P450 (CYP2D6, CYP3A4, CYP3A5). Carriers for carnitine palmitoyltransferase II deficiency and McArdle disease also present with higher prevalence of statin-induced myopathy.
Despite the widespread use of statins, the pathogenesis of statin-induced myopathy remains unclear, requiring prospective randomized controlled trials with intensive phenotyping also for identifying strategies for its risk assessment, prevention and treatment.