Simvastatin stimulates production of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 via endothelin-1 and NFATc3 in SH-SY5Y cells

Tammy A. Butterick, Urule Igbavboa, Gunter P. Eckert, Grace Y. Sun, Gary A. Weisman, Walter E. Müller, W. Gibson Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The use of statins for the prevention or treatment of different neurodegenerative diseases has generated considerable interest albeit with some controversy. Mechanisms of statin-induced neuroprotection are not well understood. Recently, we reported that simvastatin stimulated neuronal gene expression and protein levels of the major antiapoptotic protein Bcl-2 in vivo and in vitro; suppression of Bcl-2 in SH-SY5Y cells reduced simvastatin neuroprotection; effects were independent of cholesterol and other products of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase pathway. Endothelin-1 (ET-1) can increase Bcl-2 abundance via the transcription factor nuclear factor of activated thymocytes (NFATc), and simvastatin was reported to increase ET-1 gene expression. We tested the hypothesis that simvastatin stimulation of Bcl-2 involves up-regulation of ET-1 and binding of NFATc to Bcl-2 promoter sites in SH-SY5Y human neuroblastoma cells. Simvastatin increased both intracellular and secreted ET-1 protein levels. Exogenous ET-1 increased Bcl-2 protein abundance, which was inhibited by ET-1 receptor antagonists. Simvastatin increased translocation of NFATc3 to the nucleus while reducing nuclear NFATc1 and having no effect on NFATc4. Endothelin-1 also increased NFATc3 levels in the nucleus, and this increase was inhibited by ET-1 receptor antagonists. Treatment of cells with simvastatin stimulated binding of NFATc3 to the Bcl-2 promoter. We report novel findings showing that up-regulation of Bcl-2 by simvastatin involves ET-1 and the transcription factor NFATc3. Discovering how statins can selectively alter a specific NFATc isoform that leads to an increase in an antiapoptotic protein will provide a new approach to understanding statin-induced neuroprotection and conditions outside the brain in which apoptosis contributes to pathophysiology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-391
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular neurobiology
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 2010

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgement This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging (grants AG23524, AG18357), and the Department of Veterans Affairs.


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Apoptosis
  • Bcl-2
  • Endothelin-1
  • NFAT
  • Neuroprotection
  • Simvastatin
  • Statins


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