Simvastatin reduces circulating oxysterol levels in men with hypercholesterolemia

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Oxysterols (OHC) are biologically active cholesterol metabolites circulating in plasma that may be formed enzymatically (e.g. 24S-OHC, 25S-OHC and 27-OHC) or by autoxidative mechanisms (e.g. 7-ketocholesterol, 7β-OHC and 25S-OHC). Oxysterols are more soluble than cholesterol and are reported to exert inflammatory, cytoprotective and apoptotic effects according to concentration and species. Esterified oxysterols have been analysed in people with dementia and cardiovascular diseases although there is no consistent relationship between oxysterol esters and disease. However, oxysterol esters are held in lipoprotein core and may not relate to the concentration and activity of plasma free oxysterols. Methodological limitations have challenged the analysis of free oxysterols to date. We have developed a fast, sensitive and specific quantitative LC-MS/MS, multiple reaction monitoring (MRM) method to target five oxysterols in human plasma with analyte recoveries between 72-82 % and sensitivities between 5-135ng. A novel method was used to investigate the hypothesis that simvastatin may reduce the concentrations of specific plasma free oxysterols in hypercholesterolaemia. Twenty healthy male volunteers were recruited (aged 41-63 years); ten were asymptomatic with high plasma cholesterol >6.5mM and ten were healthy with normal plasma cholesterol (<6.5mM). Simvastatin (40mg/day) was prescribed to those with hypercholesterolaemia. Plasma samples were taken from both groups at baseline and after three months. Simvastatin reduced plasma cholesterol by ~35% (p<0.05) at the end of three months. Oxysterols generated by autoxidation but not enzymatically were elevated more than 100 fold in hypercholesterolaemic midlife men. Plasma oxysterols were restored to those of healthy controls after simvastatin intervention suggesting that autoxidation is either prevented by simvastatin directly or that autoxidation is less prevalent when plasma cholesterol concentrations are in the normal range.



Original languageEnglish
JournalRedox biology
Early online date17 Feb 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2018

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© 2018, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International


  • hydroxycholesterol, mass spectrometry, statin, vascular disease, dementia

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