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Papers of the Week

Papers: 21 Sep 2019 - 27 Sep 2019

Animal Studies, Pharmacology/Drug Development

2019 Nov

Brain Behav Immun


Lovastatin inhibits Toll-like receptor 4 signaling in microglia by targeting its co-receptor myeloid differentiation protein 2 and attenuates neuropathic pain.


Peng Y, Zhang X, Zhang T, Grace PM, Li H, Wang Y, Li H, Chen H, Watkins LR, Hutchinson MR, Yin H, Wang X
Brain Behav Immun. 2019 Nov; 82:432-444.
PMID: 31542403.


There is growing interest in drug repositioning to find new therapeutic indications for drugs already approved for use in people. Lovastatin is an FDA approved drug that has been used clinically for over a decade as a lipid-lowering medication. While lovastatin is classically considered to act as a hydroxymethylglutaryl (HMG)-CoA reductase inhibitor, the present series of studies reveal a novel lovastatin effect, that being as a Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) antagonist. Lovastatin selectively inhibits lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced TLR4-NF-κB activation without affecting signaling by other homologous TLRs. In vitro biophysical binding and cellular thermal shift assay (CETSA) show that lovastatin is recognized by TLR4's coreceptor myeloid differentiation protein 2 (MD-2). This finding is supported by molecular dynamics simulations that lovastatin targets the LPS binding pocket of MD-2 and lovastatin binding stabilizes the MD-2 conformation. In vitro studies of BV-2 microglial cells revealed that lovastatin inhibits multiple effects of LPS, including activation of NFkB; mRNA expression of tumor necrosis factor-a, interleukin-6 and cyclo-oxygenase 2; production of nitric oxide and reactive oxygen species; as well as phagocytic activity. Furthermore, intrathecal delivery of lovastatin over lumbosacral spinal cord of rats attenuated both neuropathic pain from sciatic nerve injury and expression of the microglial activation marker CD11 in lumbar spinal cord dorsal horn. Given the well-established role of microglia and proinflammatory signaling in neuropathic pain, these data are supportive that lovastatin, as a TLR4 antagonist, may be productively repurposed for treating chronic pain.