Statins demonstrate a broad anti-cytomegalovirus activity in vitro in ganciclovir-susceptible and resistant strains

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Vasculoprotective and cholesterol-lowering properties are hallmarks of statins. Recently, statins have been found to exhibit antiviral activity. Little is known about the potential of statins against human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), a risk factor in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis. In this study, the in vitro anti-CMV activity of four statins (atorva-, fluva-, prava-, and simvastatin) was explored in human aortic endothelial cells (HAEC) and fibroblasts. All statins dose-dependently reduced HCMV titers in both cell types. Whereas atorva-, fluva-, and simvastatin showed comparable EC50 and EC90 within a low micromolar range in HAEC, pravastatin exhibited only limited effects. In metabolite rescue experiments, mevalonate almost completely abrogated the anti-CMV activity of all statins, whereas cholesterol failed to counteract the effects. Geranylgeranyl-pyrophosphate partially reversed the anti-CMV activity of most statins, suggesting an involvement of the non-sterol isoprenoid arm of the mevalonate pathway as the mode-of-action. The accumulation of immediate early viral antigens was blocked after 1 dpi onwards, and early and late antigen expression was completely abolished in HAEC. The antiviral activity of statins was comparable to ganciclovir and was retained in a ganciclovir-resistant HCMV strain. These findings provide new insight into the beneficial effects of statins, adding antiviral activity against HCMV to their list of pleïotropic properties, and support further clinical investigations on combined therapy for the management of active HCMV disease. J. Med. Virol. 87: 141–153, 2015. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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