Atorvastatin protects obese mice against hepatic ischemia-reperfusion injury by Toll-like receptor-4 suppression and endothelial nitric oxide synthase activation

Hussam Ajamieh, Geoffrey Farrell, Heng Jian Wong, Jun Yu, Eagle Chu, Jeffrey Chen, Narci Teoh
Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2012, 27 (8): 1353-61

BACKGROUND AND AIM: Steatosis accentuates the severity of hepatic ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI). 3-Hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitors ("statins") protect the heart and brain against post-ischemic injury, without necessarily lowering serum cholesterol. We tested whether 10-day or 1-day atorvastatin administration protects livers with fatty change or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) against IRI.

METHODS: Mice with dietary or genetic simple steatosis (SS) or NASH were subjected to 60 min of partial hepatic ischemia/24-h reperfusion, with/without atorvastatin administered with food (5 mg/kg body weight) for 10 days, or injected intravenously (5 mg/kg) 24 h before ischemia. Liver injury, Toll-like receptor-4 (TLR4), cytokines/chemokines, endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS), activation and thromboxane B2 production were determined.

RESULTS: Atorvastatin conferred 70-90% hepatic protection against IRI in obese animals with SS or NASH, in which IRI was accentuated twofold to fivefold. IRI markedly upregulated TLR4 and activated nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB); atorvastatin abrogated these effects, as well as activating eNOS. Atorvastatin dampened the post-ischemic induction of thromboxane B2, macrophage inflammatory protein-1a, monocyte chemotactic protein-1, tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin (IL)-12 p40, γ-interferon, IL-6, and adhesion molecules (vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, E-selectin, vascular endothelial-cadherin), and reduced macrophage and neutrophil recruitment. There was no reduction in serum cholesterol that could explain these effects, and hepatic cholesterol was normal in these mice. A single 24-h injection of atorvastatin conferred equivalent hepatoprotection.

CONCLUSION: Statins exert major hepatoprotection against IRI in lean, fatty, and NASH livers that is not due to cholesterol removal. Rather, statins downregulate TLR4 to prevent NF-κB activation, with resultant suppression of adhesion molecules, chemokines/cytokines, and thromboxane B2 production. Short-term statin treatment is an effective, readily-available preventive agent against hepatic IRI, irrespective of obesity and fatty liver disease.

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