Pleiotropic role of atorvastatin in regulation of human retinal pigment epithelial cell behaviors in vitro

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Statins, inhibitors of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzye A reductase, possess pleiotropic effects that have been extended to modulation of various cellular behaviors. This study aimed at examining whether atorvastatin (AVN) modulates cell growth, adhesion, migration, and contraction of cultured human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. The in vitro effects of AVN on human RPE cells was analyzed in terms of cell proliferation, cell cycle, cell adhesion, migration, and contraction assays. The modulatory effect of AVN on TGF-β2-triggered signaling was determined by Western blotting detection. AVN at submicromolar dose exhibited no prominent morphological alteration and cytotoxicity, whereas it elicited cytostatic effect at concentrations higher than 1 μM. Cell cycle analysis showed that AVN induced growth arrest in both G1 and G2/M phases. AVN at 1 μM or higher concentrations significantly suppressed RPE cell adhesion. Cell migration and 3D collagen contraction assays showed that AVN significantly suppressed RPE cell migration and contractility, respectively. Mechanistically, AVN treatment transiently up-regulated phosphorylation of Akt, ERK1/2, and p38 MAPK, whereas down-regulated that of JNK1. Intriguingly, AVN pretreatment prominently attenuated the TGF-β2-mediated non-Smad signaling, including Akt, ERK1/2, p38 MAPK, and JNK1 phosphorylation. Besides, it directly reduced constitutive level of myosin regulatory light chain peptide MYL9 and mitigated the TGF-β2-induced phosphorylation of myosin phosphatase-targeting subunit 1, MYPT1. These in vitro findings strongly suggest that AVN possesses pleiotropic function on RPE cells, including anti-proliferation, anti-adhesion, anti-migration as well as anti-contraction. In conclusion, AVN treatment may be considered a useful therapy for proliferative vitreoretinal diseases.

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