Simvastatin inhibits secretion of Th17-polarizing cytokines and antigen presentation by DCs in patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis


Full Correspondence: Dr. Silva Markovic-Plese, Department of Neurology, Microbiology and Immunology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA

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Statins, widely used cholesterol-lowering agents, have also been demonstrated to have antiinflammatory effects. Here, we characterize the capacity of simvastatin to target DCs and modulate T-cell priming and Th17-cell differentiation, in a cohort of patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). We report that simvastatin inhibits IL-1β, IL-23, TGF-β, IL-21, IL-12p70, and induces IL-27 secretion from DCs in RRMS patients, providing an inhibitory cytokine milieu for Th17 and Th1-cell differentiation. The effect on DCs is mediated via induction of SOCS1, SOCS3, and SOCS7 gene expression, which are associated with the inhibition of STAT1, STAT3, and ERK1/2 phosphorylation. A geranylgeranyl transferase inhibitor replicated simvastatin's effects on DC cytokine secretion, implicating that simvastatin-induced depletion of isoprenoids mediates this effect. Simvastatin inhibited antigen presentation by DCs via suppression of the MHC class I expression, costimulatory molecules CD80 and CD40, and by inducing a dramatic loss of dendritic processes. The changes in DC morphology were also mediated via inhibition of geranylgeranylation. The therapeutic use of geranylgeranylation inhibitors may provide selective inhibition of key pathogenic cytokines that drive the autoimmune response in MS; their use represents a promising therapeutic approach that requires further clinical testing.