Pharmacognosy Magazine

: 2018  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 55  |  Page : 237--244

Effect of simvastatin on neuroinflammation in microglial cells via mitogen-activated protein kinase and nuclear factor κB pathways

HongYing Ma1, DingAn Li2, Thamaraiselvan Rengarajan3, Kalaivani Manokaran4,  
1 Department of Neurology, Tangshan GongRen Hospital, Tangshan, Hebei Province, PR China
2 Hanzhong Central Hospital, 22 KangFu Road, Hanzhong, Shaanxi Province, PR China
3 Scigen Research and Innovation, Periyar Technology Business Incubator, Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu, India
4 Department of Medical Laboratory Technology, School of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Karnataka, India

Correspondence Address:
Kalaivani Manokaran
Department of Medical Laboratory Technology, School of Allied Health Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Madhav Nagar, Near Tiger Circle, Manipal - 576 104, Karnataka


Background: Activated microglial cells are found in different sorts of the neurodegenerative process including Parkinson and Alzheimer. Suppressing the activated microglial cells developed as a novel procedure for the treatment of neuroinflammation-based neurodegeneration. Materials and Methods: We have investigated the effects of simvastatin on memory impairment and inflammatory cytokines expression induced by transient cerebral ischemia in cultured microglial cells. Results: The lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-activated microglial cells treated with simvastatin 3 μmol has decreased the inflammation which was indicated by the reduced levels of the nitric oxide (NO), tumor necrosis factor-α, interleukin-1 β, cyclooxygenase-2, and inducible NO synthase. Simvastatin also delayed the activation of atomic component nuclear factor-κB, p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, and the reactive oxygen species in LPS-activated microglial cells. Moreover, simvastatin has provoked the outflow of heme oxygenase-1 in BV-2 microglial cells. Conclusions: The present study showed that the simvastatin antagonizes neuroinflammation and can be a potential restorative operator for treating neuroinflammatory ailments. Abbreviations used: LPS: Lipopolysaccharide, TNF-α: Tumor necrosis factor, NO: Nitric oxide, IL-1β: Interleukin, COX-2: Cyclooxygenase, iNOS: Inducible nitric oxide synthase, MAPK: Mitogen-activated protein kinase, HO-1: Heme oxygenase

How to cite this article:
Ma H, Li D, Rengarajan T, Manokaran K. Effect of simvastatin on neuroinflammation in microglial cells via mitogen-activated protein kinase and nuclear factor κB pathways.Phcog Mag 2018;14:237-244

How to cite this URL:
Ma H, Li D, Rengarajan T, Manokaran K. Effect of simvastatin on neuroinflammation in microglial cells via mitogen-activated protein kinase and nuclear factor κB pathways. Phcog Mag [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 May 17 ];14:237-244
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Full Text



Simvastatin, applies calming impacts, for the most part by focusing on p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase, atomic component nuclear factor κB, and heme oxygenase-1 signaling pathwaySimvastatin antagonizes neuroinflammation and can be a potential restorative operator for treating neuroinflammatory ailments.


Neuroinflammation mediated by glial initiation, recognized as a common characteristic of numerous neurodegenerative diseases.[1] Microglia, the brain-resident macrophages, are considered to assume the essential part in directing neurotoxicity intervened by inflammatory reaction.[2] Microglial can be activated by lipopolysaccharide (LPS), interferon (IFN)-γ or β-amyloid in vitro.[3],[4]

Activated microglial cells could create some master inflammatory elements, for example, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, prostaglandins, interleukin (IL)-1 β, IL-6, and free radicals such as nitric oxide (NO) and reactive oxygen species (ROS). These neurotoxic variables may prompt neuronal harm, bringing about the advance of neurodegenerative illnesses.[5],[6] In parallel, astrocytes activation additionally aggravate the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases.[7],[8] Inflammatory initiation of glial cells assumes a vital part in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative illnesses.[9],[10] Microglia and macrophages release TNF-α, IL-1 β, and IL-6 on activation with the bacterial endotoxin LPS in vitro. The release of these cytokines is mediated by protein tyrosine kinases, mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPKs), and transcription factors such as nuclear factor κB (NFκB).[11]

Statins, 3-hydroxy-3-methyl glutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors, have been well-known for their effects on the rate-limiting step in cholesterol synthesis.[12] Simvastatin is currently one of the most common drugs for old patients with hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, and atherosclerotic diseases by reducing cholesterol level and antilipid properties. Importantly, simvastatin has also been reported to have anti-inflammatory effect, but the underlying mechanism is largely unknown.[13],[14] Few studies [15],[16] have demonstrated that simvastatin has immunomodulatory and antagonizes inflammatory impacts. Animal study [17],[18] revealed that simvastatin is a great operator that diminishes cytokines levels and leukocyte number in sepsis, and significant for the lipid-bringing down. Simvastatin has vital calming effects on stomach sepsis in rats. Another study [19],[20] exhibited that high-dosage of simvastatin may be effective for the treatment of patients with severe systemic inflammation and related vascular hyporeactivity amid endotoxemia. Simvastatin diminishes enrollment and activation of neutrophils, therefore, shielding from LPS-initiated severe lung damage. In the present study, we reported that simvastatin, applies calming impacts, for the most part by focusing on p38 MAPK, atomic component κB (NF-κB), and heme oxygenase (HO)-1 signaling pathway.

 Materials and Methods

Reagents and chemicals

LPS and simvastatin were acquired from Sigma-Aldrich (St. Louis, MO, USA). Recombinant mouse IFN-γ purchased from R and D Systems (Minneapolis, MN, USA).

Cell culture

BV-2 murine microglial cell, HT22 mouse neuroblastoma cell, RAW 264.7 macrophage cell and highly aggressive proliferating immortalized (HAPI) rodent microglial refined in Dulbecco's adjusted Eagle's medium (DMEM) supplemented with 10% fetal ox-like serum (fetal bovine serum), and penicillin (0.1%) streptomycin (0.1%) at 5% CO2, 37°C. Essential astrocytes and microglial cells were cultured as already portrayed. The infant ICR mice sterilized with 75% liquor for 1–2 days. The skull of mice was stripped, and the entire cerebrum was taken in the dish containing precooling sans serum DMEM. The pia mater and veins deliberately expelled from the cerebral cortex, and the coveted cerebrum tissue was washed 2–3 times with precooling without serum DMEM. The cortex tissue was cut into 1 mm 3 pieces and processed with papain (2 mg/ml) at 37°C for 30 min. The specimen suspended utilizing different pore size of tips and after that centrifuged for 3 min. The cells were seeded on poly-D-lysine-covered 75 mm flagons and refined for 14 days at 37°C, 5% CO2. The microglial cells acquired from blended glial societies by shaking at 150 rpm for 2 h. The astrocytes cultures isolated by shaking at 280 rpm for 12 h. The refined microglia or astrocytes (>95%) was immune-stained with the counteracting agent of a group of separation 11b (CD11b) or glial fibrillary acidic protein, separately (information not appeared). The present study endorsed by the Institutional Review Board of Soochow University.

Cell viability test

The cell practicality evaluated by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) measure as already portrayed. Cells seeded in 96-well plates at the density of 5 × 104 cells/well. The cell culture supernatant disposed after treatment with different operators, and afterward, 30 ml of MTT (0.5 mg/ml) arrangement included into each well. After incubating for 4 h at 37°C, 100 ml of DMSO was added to each well to form its insoluble formazan color, and the microplate reader measured 580 nm of the absorbance solubilized formazan.

Nitrite quantification

The NO in the cell culture supernatants was assessed by Griess reagent as discussed in earlier studies.[20],[21] Microplate used at the optical density at 550 nm of absorbance. NaNO2 was utilized as the standard to compute NO2– fixations.[22]

Western blot analysis

RIPA buffer with proteinase inhibitors (Roche, Germany) was used for protein extraction from the cell. Protein concentration in the cell extract was determined using Bio-Rad dye reagent (Bio-Rad). An equal volume (40 μg) of the total isolated protein was resolved on a 10% sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and transferred onto polyvinylidene difluoride membrane (Millipore, Bedford, MA, USA). The film was blocked with 5% skim milk and treated with the essential counteracting agent. The membrane was incubated with the primary antibodies for inducible NO synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 (Abcam, Cambridge, MA), IκBα, phospho-Ikka/b and phospho-IκBα (Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Santa Cruz, CA); antagonist to ERK1/2, p38, JNK (Cell Signaling Technology, Beverly, MA, USA); against α-tubulin (Sigma). The membrane was washed with phosphate buffered saline (PBS) with Tween-20 buffer and then incubated with secondary antibodies (Sigma-Aldrich). The intensity of the protein visualized with a ChemiScope 3300 mini (CLINX, Shanghai, China).

Quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction

Total RNA extraction from the microglial cells using TRIzol reagent (Takara, Dalian, China). cDNA synthesis was reverse transcribed with 2 μg of total RNA (Takara, Dalian, China). The specifically designed primers and SYBR green Premix II kit (Takara, Dalian, China) utilized for quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) examination. The relative edge cycle (CT) estimation of each objective quality was standardized to that of Glyceraldehyde-3-Phosphate dehydrogenase.[23],[24]

Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay

The TNF-α from the cell culture supernatants were measured by TNF-α enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) kit (R and D Systems, Minneapolis, MN, USA) as per manufacturers guideline.[25] ELISA plates were read using microplate reader. Indirect ELISA was performed using specific antibodies. Cell culture medium or the cell lysate precoated onto ELISA plates served as the antigen. O-dianisidine was used as substrate, and the absorbance of the colored horseradish peroxidase product was measured spectrophotometrically at 405 nm by an automated microplate reader (Thermo Multiskan Spectrum).

Measurement of intracellular reactive oxygen species

Intracellular ROS measured using the dichloro-dihydro-fluorescein diacetate (DCFH-DA as described in the previous studies. Cells were harvested in the presence of 10 μmol DCFH-DA in PBS at 37°C for 20 min. The plate was allowed to mix for 3–5 min to help the test to contact cell completely. The cells were washed with sans serum culture medium for three times. Tests were monitored using the flow cytometry at 530 nm (FACS Calibur, Becton Dickinson).

Nuclear factor-κB reporter assay

The BV-2 microglial was conveying NF-κB columnist lentiviral particles seeded to 24-well plate in triplicate. The cells pretreated with Simvastatin or vehicle for 30 min before LPS treatment. After 16 h of LPS incubation, luciferase movement was measured using the luciferase test pack (Promega) as per the manufacturer's guidelines, and the level of promoter action communicated as individual units.

Establishment of stable BV-2 cell line expressing nuclear factor-kB reporter

BV-2 microglial cells were transduced with NF-kB columnist lentiviral particles. BV-2 cells were seeded on 24-well plate and incubated at 37°C for 12 h. NF-kB journalist lentiviral particles (Cignal™ Lenti Reporters, Qiagen) included in a grouping of 2.5 × 105 transducing units. After incubation of 24 h, the supernatant was removed and replaced with the new medium. Two days later, the medium changed with fresh medium containing 1.2 mg/ml of puromycin. Subsequently, after 5 days, surviving cells were chosen and utilized for further investigations.

Microglial/neuron co-culture

Microglial/neuron coculture was performed with transwell embed. The microglial cells were seeded at the density of 5 × 104 on the transwell embed (pore measure 0.4 mm; Corning, CA, USA) in 24-well plates and incubated overnight. Cells were preincubated with Simvastatin for 30 min preceding LPS treatment. After 6 h of LPS treatment, the supplements containing microglial cells exchanged to HT-22 cells. After corefined for 36 h, the additions expelled, and MTT controlled the cytotoxicity of HT-22 cells examine or AnnexinV/propidium iodide apoptosis measure.

Data analysis

All experiments were concluded at least three times, and data were expressed as mean ± stdardard deviation (SD). Statistical analyses were completed using GraphPad Prism 4 (GraphPad Software, La Jolla, California, USA). The results shown are the means ± SD of three independent experiments. Statistical significance was determined by one-way analysis of variance followed by the Student Newman Keuls post hoc comparison tests and P < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.


Simvastatin inhibited lipopolysaccharide induced nitric oxide and tumor necrosis factor-α production in microglial cells

The effect of the Simvastatin on LPS-activated NO generation in BV-2 microglial cells [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]b and primary microglial cultures [Figure 1]c and [Figure 1]d was evaluated. Simvastatin-treated groups showed a strong decrease in LPS-induced NO generation in both the BV-2 microglial and primary microglial cultures [Figure 1]a and [Figure 1]c. The potency of suppression of NO production was ranked based on 94% inhibitory concentration 50 as Simvastatin (5.32 ± 0.05 mM). Cell viability was measured to know the possibility that the decrease of NO generation was due to the cytotoxicity of the Simvastatin. As shown in the [Figure 1]b and [Figure 1]d, the Simvastatin did not display obvious cytotoxicity on microglial cells. Based on its powerful NO inhibitory effects in LPS activated microglial cells, the anti-inflammatory effects of Simvastatin further studied. The inhibitory effect of Simvastatin on NO generation further confirmed in HAPI rat microglial cells, RAW 264.7 murine macrophage cells, and primary astrocytes [Figure 2]a,[Figure 2]b,[Figure 2]c. Besides, we have also tested the effect of Simvastatin on TNF-α level in cell culture supernatant. LPS-induced TNF-α production in BV-2 microglial or primary microglia was significantly decreased by Simvastatin [Figure 3]a and [Figure 3]b.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}{Figure 3}

Simvastatin inhibited expression of interleukin-1 β, inducible nitric oxide synthase, cyclooxygenase-2, and tumor necrosis factor-α in lipopolysaccharide-activated microglial cells

The impacts of Simvastatin inspected on the LPS-activated microglial cells, the mRNA levels of iNOS, TNF-α, IL-1 β, and COX-2 measured by qRT-PCR. Simvastatin decreased the mRNA expression of iNOS, TNF-α, IL-1 β, and COX-2 significantly [Figure 4]a,[Figure 4]b,[Figure 4]c,[Figure 4]d. The inhibitory impacts of simvastatin on protein level of iNOS and COX-2 in LPS-initiated BV-2 microglial cells were likewise acknowledged by Western blotting [Figure 4]e.{Figure 4}

Simvastatin the lipopolysaccharide-induced activation of nuclear factor-kB in microglial cells

NF-kB is a key transcription complex that controls the cytokines production in microglial reactions. With this regards, we explored whether NF-kB pathway included in calming impacts of Simvastatin. LPS starts a flagging course prompting kinase IκB kinase (Ikk) phosphorylation, taken after by IκB phosphorylation, which activates IκB debasement and translocation of p65 subunit into atomic. LPS-activated phosphorylation of Ikkα/β, IκB, and corruption of IκB was notably repressed by simvastatin [Figure 5]a. The inhibitory impact of simvastatin on LPS-activated atomic increased p65 and NF-kB luciferase action in BV-2 microglial cells was additionally confirmed [Figure 5]b. Consequently, the impact of simvastatin on the MAPKs (ERK, JNK, and p38) pathways was analyzed. After activation of BV-2 microglial cells with LPS for 20 min, the initiation of MAPKs was identified by Western blot utilizing immune responses particular for individual phospho-MAPKs. The level of p38 phosphorylation was restricted by simvastatin, while phosphorylation of ERK and JNK was not attuned [Figure 5]c. Thus seem to show that the p38 MAPK and NF-kB pathways might be related to the mitigating systems of simvastatin in microglial cells.{Figure 5}

Simvastatin suppressed the lipopolysaccharide-induced intracellular reactive oxygen species generation

LPS-activated microglial cells creates ROS that is related with the neuroaggravation and neurodegeneration.[26] To test the impacts of simvastatin on ROS, the intracellular ROS was measured by FACS examination. As appeared in [Figure 6]a, simvastatin diminished ROS in LPS-activated BV-2 microglial cells. Since NADPH oxidase primarily catalyzed ROS in microglial cells,[27] the impacts of simvastatin on the articulation of NADPH oxidase were inspected utilizing qRT-PCR. The outcomes demonstrated that simvastatin uniquely decreased the articulation of gp91phox [Figure 6]b and p47phox [Figure 6]c of NADPH oxidase yet not significantly the other subunit (p22phox) [Figure 6]d. We next analyzed the impacts of simvastatin on the articulation of HO-1, which is an inducible chemical that catalyzes the corruption of heme and applies against oxidant and mitigating impacts under different conditions.[28]{Figure 6}


Neuroinflammation brought on by activated glial cells is extremely vital to the improvement of neurodegenerative sicknesses.[20] Activated microglial could deliver different cytokines furthermore, neurotoxic elements that add to neuronal cell degeneration. In the present study, the impacts of Simvastatin have the strongest inhibitor on LPS-activated microglial cells and NO generation. The high liposolubility acetyl gathering characteristic of simvastatin made the compound less demanding to penetrate into the cells, accordingly displaying the calming properties of activated microglia. Known that NO and PGE2 generation were mostly intervened by iNOS and COX.[21] TNF-α and IL-1 β are similarly important pro-inflammatory elements, which are effectively produced during the neuroinflammatory illnesses.[22] We found that simvastatin controlled TNF-α, IL-1 β, and COX-2 gene expression and protein levels in LPS-activated microglial cells. The outcomes projected that simvastatin might be a potential prospect for therapeutic applications for neuroinflammatory illnesses.

LPS provokes the inflammatory elements by the official of Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4). After the response of TLR4 by LPS, various intracellular components counting Ikk complex and MAPKs gets activated with cytoplasmic particles and thus activating the downstream transcriptional elements including NF-kB and activator protein-1.[25] It is notable that a few events control NF-kB activation, for example, Ikk phosphorylation, IκB phosphorylation, IκB degradation, and nuclear translocation of NF-kB. In nuclear, the p65 subunit of the NF-kB complex ties to a kB site in the DNA area of target qualities to direct quality interpretation.[23] In the present study, we observed that simvastatin suppressed Ikk phosphorylation, IκB phosphorylation, IκB degradation and NF-kB promoter movement in LPS-activated microglial cells which were predictable with past perception that Gamma-linolenic acid restricted the activation of NF-kB.[24] Nevertheless, NF-kB and p38 are another essential modulator of the statement of star inflammatory cytokines and compounds, for example, iNOS, COX-2, IL-6, and ROS in glial cells.[21]

Simvastatin suppressed LPS-activated phosphorylation of p38. The crosstalk between NF-kB and p38 pathways is most certainly not predictable. In the past review, it was accounted that, p38 particular inhibitor SB 203580 substantially blocked NF-kB initiation while NF-kB inhibitor pyrrolidinedithiocarbamate did not piece p38 initiation, recommending that NF-kB be a downstream flag atom of p38 in macrophage cells.[29] Furthermore, various reviews proposed that NF-kB and p38 be two independent flag pathways in macrophages reaction to inflammatory boosts. Different mitigating specialist's decreased NF-kB initiation in LPS-activated microglial cells, though p38 activation was not influenced.[30] In this manner, crosstalk among p38 and NF-kB in the control of the inflammatory reaction is likely subject to cell sort and nature of traumas.

Despite the fact that the immediate target particle of simvastatin is unclear, this perception showed that hindrance of NF-kB and p38 MAPK signaling pathway might include in molecular components of the suppressive impacts of simvastatin on mRNA expression of iNOS, COX-2, TNF-α, and IL-1 β. ROS are reliably created by activated microglial cells and assume a fundamental part in the aggravation intervened neurodegeneration.[31] Intracellular ROS, as an optional representative for inflammatory responses, passes different downstream flagging atoms including NF-kB, protein kinase C (PKC), and MAPK,[32],[33] in this way managing the statement of fiery master qualities in glial cells reaction to inflammatory boosts. The ROS controlled by NADPH oxidase which is a noteworthy hotspot for cell ROS in LPS-activated microglial. There are developing confirming support that LPS causes upregulation of NADPH oxidase in microglia cells, and hindrance of NADPH oxidase stifles inflammatory initiation of microglial cells.[33],[34]

NADPH oxidase was made out of two-layer parts (gp91phox and p22phox) and three cytosolic parts (p47phox, p67phox, and p40phox). In addition, microglial cells disengaged from gp91phox or p47phox lacking mice indicated less generation of proinflammatory between and ROS in cells reaction to LPS.[35] The present study reveals that LPS-activated ROS furthermore, articulates gp91phox and p47phox were altogether diminished by simvastatin in BV-2 microglial cells. Contradictorily, it was accounted for that simvastatin, essentially elevated ROS in human HL-60 leukemia cells.[26] These outcomes recommended that the impact of glaucocalyxins on the ROS may rely on upon cell sort and centralization of combinations. Since NF-kB and p38 are downstream proteins of ROS,[27],[28] hindrance of ROS/NF-kB, and ROS/p38 pathways included in the calming systems of Simvastatin.

HO-1 is an inducible compound that catalyzes the oxidative corruption of heme into carbon monoxide, biliverdin, and free press.[36] Few studies have exhibited that acceptance of HO-1 expression in glia cells showed calming, antagonistic to oxidant furthermore, cytoprotective properties under different conditions.[37],[38] The mitigating activity of HO-1 in microglial cells interceded by restraint of NF-kB and MAPK flagging pathway.[39] We also found that simvastatin initiated HO-1 expression in microglial cells, proposing that enlistment of HO-1 may be included in the mitigating properties of simvastatin. The atomic instruments of HO-1 expression are additionally questionable. Studies have detailed that MAPKs, ROS, PKC, and NF-kB were flagging which is a fundamental part in the control of HO-1 expression to oxidative anxiety.[40] Our work have observed that simvastatin alone did not activate MAPK (p38, JNK, ERK) and NF-kB, demonstrating that these flagging pathways not included in the Simvastatin activated HO-1 expression in microglial cells.

Few studies additionally showed that both NF-kB inhibitor and MAPK inhibitor did not activate HO-1 expression in microglial cells, recommending that these two pathways not be upstream of HO-1 at slightest in our exploratory conditions.[41] In any event, two pathways are conceivably involved in the calming mechanisms of simvastatin: NADPH oxidase intervened concealment of ROS/NF-kB and ROS/p38 activation; HO-1 acceptance intervened hindrance of ROS/NF-kB, and ROS/p38 activation. Microglial cells have both beneficial and adverse capacity on neuronal homeostasis.[42],[43] Unreasonable microglial activation gives neurotoxic microenvironment encompassing neuron through the generation of star inflammatory cytokines and free radicals, adds to neurodegenerative procedures.[32],[42] In this manner, hindrance of glial activation can anticipate neuronal wounds in neurodegenerative sicknesses conditions.[44] Numerous calming operators displayed neuroprotective properties by restraining microglial initiation and resulting generation of pro-inflammatory middle people under focal sensory system (central nervous system) diseases conditions.[45]

Future reviews are required to recognize the specific molecular focus of simvastatin and to assess the neuroprotective impacts utilizing appropriate neuroinflammatory sickness creature models. The present study concludes that simvastatin has the neuroprotective properties by hindering microglial activation and might have a significant potential against neuroinflammatory diseases.


Our study showed that the simvastatin mitigates the neuroinflammation and can be a potential restorative operator for treating neuroinflammatory ailments.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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