The lipid lowering drug lovastatin protects against doxorubicin-induced hepatotoxicity

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Liver is the main detoxifying organ and therefore the target of high concentrations of genotoxic compounds, such as environmental carcinogens and anticancer drugs. Here, we investigated the usefulness of lovastatin, which is nowadays widely used for lipid lowering purpose, as a hepatoprotective drug following the administration of the anthracycline derivative doxorubicin in vivo. To this end, BALB/c mice were exposed to either a single high dose or three consecutive low doses of doxorubicin. Acute and subacute hepatotoxicities were analyzed with or without lovastatin co-treatment. Lovastatin protected the liver against doxorubicin-induced acute pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic stress responses as indicated by an attenuated mRNA expression of tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), respectively. Hepatoprotection by lovastatin was due to a reduced induction of DNA damage following doxorubicin treatment. The statin also mitigated subacute anthracycline-provoked hepatotoxicity as shown on the level of doxorubicin- and epirubicin-stimulated CTGF mRNA expression as well as histopathologically detectable fibrosis and serum concentration of marker enzymes of hepatotoxicity (GPT/GLDH). Kidney damage following doxorubicin exposure was not detectable under our experimental conditions. Moreover, lovastatin showed multiple inhibitory effects on doxorubicin-triggered hepatic expression of genes involved in oxidative stress response, drug transport, DNA repair, cell cycle progression and cell death. Doxorubicin also stimulated the formation of ceramides. Ceramide production, however, was not blocked by lovastatin, indicating that hepatoprotection by lovastatin is independent of the sphingolipid metabolism. Overall, the data show that lovastatin is hepatoprotective following genotoxic stress induced by anthracyclines. Based on the data, we hypothesize that statins might be suitable to lower hepatic injury following anthracycline-based anticancer therapy.

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