Statins inhibit insulin-like growth factor action in first trimester placenta by altering insulin-like growth factor 1 receptor glycosylation

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The rapid rise in obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes is one of the major healthcare problems of the Western world. Affected individuals are often treated with statins (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl co-enzyme A [HMG CoA] reductase inhibitors) to reduce circulating cholesterol levels and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease; given the evolving demographic profile of these conditions, such drugs are increasingly prescribed to women of reproductive age. We have previously shown that exposure of placental tissue to statins inhibits the action of insulin-like growth factors (IGF)-I and -II which are key regulators of trophoblast proliferation and placental development. N-linked glycans in the IGF receptor, IGF1R, influence its presentation at the cell surface. This study aimed to determine whether statins, which are known to affect N-glycosylation, modulate IGF1R function in placenta. Treatment of first trimester villous tissue explants with statins (pravastatin or cerivastatin) or inhibitors of N-glycosylation (tunicamycin, deoxymannojirimycin or castanospermine) altered receptor distribution in trophoblast and attenuated proliferation induced by IGF-I or IGF-II (Ki67; P < 0.05, n = 5). Decreased binding of Phaseolus vulgaris lectin and phytohaemagglutinin to IGF1R immunoprecipitated from treated explants demonstrated reduced levels of complex N-linked glycans. Co-incubation of tissue explants with statins and farnesyl pyrophosphate (which increases the supply of dolichol intermediates), prevented statin-mediated disruption of IGF1R localization and reversed the negative effect on IGF-mediated trophoblast proliferation. These data suggest that statins attenuate IGF actions in the placenta by inhibiting N-linked glycosylation and subsequent expression of mature IGF1R at the placental cell surface.

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