Statins reduce TGF-beta2-modulation of the extracellular matrix in cultured astrocytes of the human optic nerve head

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Statins are cholesterol lowering drugs and have shown beneficial effects on glaucoma. With regard to the mechanism of statin action on glaucoma, we investigated the effects of statins on transforming growth factor-beta 2 (TGF-β2)-induced expression of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins in human astrocytes of the optic nerve head (ONH) lamina cribrosa (LC). By using primary human ONH astrocytes, we found that both simvastatin and lovastatin inhibited TGF-β2-mediated expression of ECM proteins such as connective tissue growth factor, collagen I, fibronectin, and plasminogen activator inhibitor-1. Suppression of ECM related proteins is due to inhibition of Smad2/3 activation as statins inhibit TGF-β2-induced Smad2 phosphorylation and Smad2/3 nuclear accumulation. In ONH astrocytes, TGF-β2 does not induce MAPK activation. In this study we found an anti-fibrotic effect of statins in human astrocytes of the ONH and identified TGF-β2 as a mediator of statin action, which may support a beneficial role for statins in blocking glaucomatous axonal damage induced by ECM remodeling.

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