Immune Modulatory Effects of Hypercholesterolemia: Can Atorvastatin Convert the Detrimental Effect of Hypercholesterolemia on the Immune System?

Effect of atorvastatin on the immune System

  • Zeinab Emruzi Department of Medical Genetics, National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (NIGEB), Tehran, Iran
  • Pegah Babaheidarian Department of Pathology, Rasul-e Akram Hospital, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  • Mahmoud Arshad Department of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Minimally Invasive Surgery Research Center, Rasul-e Akram Hospital, Iran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran
  • Hannes Stockinger Institute for Hygiene and Applied Immunology, Center for Pathophysiology, Infectiology and Immunology, Medical University of Vienna, Molecular Immunology Unit, Vienna, Austria
  • Ghasem Ahangari Department of Medical Genetics, National Institute of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (NIGEB), Tehran, Iran
Keywords: Atorvastatin, Cytokine, Hypercholesterolemia, Immune response


Many observations showed that hypercholesterolemia can disrupt immune response. Statin drugs that were used for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia patients can interfere in the regulation of the immune response and cytokine secretion. The primary aim of the current study was to investigate the immune response among treatment-naïve patients with hypercholesterolemia and healthy subjects. The secondary goal of the study was to determine whether atorvastatin can reverse the detrimental effect of hypercholesterolemia on the immune system. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) were isolated from 50 patients afflicted with hypercholesterolemia who were treatment-naïve along with 50 sex/age-matched hypercholesterolemia patients receiving atorvastatin, and 50 sex/age-matched healthy subjects. Quantitative PCR and ELISA methods were used for gene and protein expression analysis of T helper 1 (Th1) and Th2 related cytokines. Additionally, the expression of the cluster of differentiation (CD) markers on T, B, and natural killer (NK) cells was measured by flow cytometry method. The results showed that hypercholesterolemia and atorvastatin down-regulated the expression of Th1-related cytokines and elevated the levels of Th2-related cytokines. The expression of cell surface markers, CD25 and CD69, was significantly decreased in the treatment-naïve, and atorvastatin groups. It seems that atorvastatin is not able to repair the deleterious effects of hypercholesterolemia on the immune system. Moreover, elevated levels of cholesterol along with the administration of atorvastatin tilt the Th1/Th2 balance in favor of Th2 and reduce T cell activation.


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How to Cite
Emruzi Z, Babaheidarian P, Arshad M, Stockinger H, Ahangari G. Immune Modulatory Effects of Hypercholesterolemia: Can Atorvastatin Convert the Detrimental Effect of Hypercholesterolemia on the Immune System?. Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol. 18(5):554-566.
Original Article(s)