Dysfunction of vascular smooth muscle and vascular remodeling by simvastatin

Seojin Kang, Hyang Hwa Woo, Keunyoung Kim, Kyung Min Lim, Ji Yoon Noh, Moo Yeol Lee, Young Min Bae, Ok Nam Bae, Jin Ho Chung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Statins, inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase, are widely prescribed for hypercholesterolemia. With the increasing use of statins, numerous reports demonstrated that statins can cause damage to skeletal muscles. However, the toxicities of statins on vascular smooth muscle, which are essential to cardiovascular homeostasis, have not been previously described. Here, we examined the effects of simvastatin on the contractile function and the integrity of vascular smooth muscle in isolated rat thoracic aortic rings, primary cultured vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) in vitro and rats in vivo. In aortic rings, simvastatin suppressed the normal agonist-induced contractile responses in time- and concentration-dependent manners (0.86 g ± 0.11 at 10μM simvastatin for 24 h compared with 1.89 g ± 0.11 at control). The suppression persisted in the endothelium-denuded aortic rings and was irreversible even after wash-out of simvastatin. Simvastatin suppressed the contraction induced by Bay K8644, an activator of voltage-operated Ca2+ channel (VOCC) in rat aortic rings and abolished agonist-induced intracellular Ca2+ increase in VSMCs. The simvastatin-induced contractile dysfunction was reversed by the supplementation of mevalonate and geranylgeranylpyrophosphate, precursors for protein isoprenylation. Consistently, activation of RhoA, a representative isoprenylated protein, was disrupted by simvastatin in VSMCs and RhoA-mediated phosphorylation of MYPT1 and CPI-17, and tonic tension were also suppressed. Notably, prolonged treatment of simvastatin up to 48 h induced apoptosis of vascular smooth muscle in aortic rings. Most importantly, simvastatin treatment in vivo significantly attenuated the agonist-induced vasoconstriction in rats ex vivo and induced a decrease in luminal area of the vascular wall. Collectively, these results demonstrate that simvastatin can impair the normal vascular contractility by disturbing Ca2+ influx and RhoA activity, ultimately leading to apoptosis and structural remodeling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-556
Number of pages111
JournalToxicological Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Apoptosis
  • RhoA
  • Simvastatin
  • Smooth muscle dysfunction
  • Vascular remodeling


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