Statin therapy exacerbates alcohol-induced constriction of cerebral arteries via modulation of ethanol-induced BK channel inhibition in vascular smooth muscle

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Statins constitute the most commonly prescribed drugs to decrease cholesterol (CLR). CLR is an important modulator of alcohol-induced cerebral artery constriction (AICAC). Using rats on a high CLR diet (2% CLR) we set to determine whether atorvastatin administration (10 mg/kg daily for 18–23 weeks) modified AICAC. Middle cerebral arteries were pressurized in vitro at 60 mmHg and AICAC was evoked by 50 mM ethanol, that is within the range of blood alcohol detected in humans following moderate-to-heavy drinking. AICAC was evident in high CLR + atorvastatin group but not in high CLR diet + placebo. Statin exacerbation of AICAC persisted in de-endothelialized arteries, and was blunted by CLR enrichment in vitro. Fluorescence imaging of filipin-stained arteries showed that atorvastatin decreased vascular smooth muscle (VSM) CLR when compared to placebo, this difference being reduced by CLR enrichment in vitro. Voltage- and calcium-gated potassium channels of large conductance (BK) are known VSM targets of ethanol, with their beta1 subunit being necessary for ethanol-induced channel inhibition and resulting AICAC. Ethanol-induced BK inhibition in excised membrane patches from freshly isolated myocytes was exacerbated in the high CLR diet + atorvastatin group when compared to high CLR diet + placebo. Unexpectedly, atorvastatin decreased the amount and function of BK beta1 subunit as documented by immunofluorescence imaging and functional patch-clamp studies. Atorvastatin exacerbation of ethanol-induced BK inhibition disappeared upon artery CLR enrichment in vitro. Our study demonstrates for the first time statin's ability to exacerbate the vascular effect of a widely consumed drug of abuse, this exacerbation being driven by statin modulation of ethanol-induced BK channel inhibition in the VSM via CLR-mediated mechanism.

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