Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

Synergistic therapeutic vascular cytoprotection against complement-mediated injury induced via a PKCα-, AMPK-, and CREB-dependent pathway.

PMID 24670799


Endothelial injury and dysfunction precede accelerated arterial disease in allograft vasculopathy and systemic autoimmune diseases and involve pathogenic Abs and complement. Recent reports suggest that switching to rapamycin from calcineurin antagonists reduces posttransplant vasculopathy and prolongs survival following cardiac transplantion. The majority of these patients also receive statin therapy. We examined potential mechanisms underlying this protective response in human endothelial cells and identified synergy between rapamycin and atorvastatin. Mechanistically, atorvastatin and rapamycin activated a protein kinase Cα, AMP-activated kinase, and CREB-dependent vasculoprotective pathway, which induced decay-accelerating factor (DAF) promoter activity via binding to the cAMP response element, mutation of which attenuated promoter activity. This response significantly increased endothelial cell surface DAF and enhanced protection against complement-mediated injury. Synergy with rapamycin was reproduced by simvastatin, whereas combining atorvastatin with cyclosporine or mycophenolate in place of rapamycin was ineffective. Importantly, synergy was reproduced in vivo, in which only atorvastatin and rapamycin therapy in combination was sufficient to induce DAF on murine aortic endothelium. We believe this pathway represents an important therapeutically inducible vasculoprotective mechanism for diseases mediated by pathogenic Abs and complement, including posttransplant vasculopathy and systemic lupus erythematosus. Although our study focuses on the vascular endothelium, the findings are likely to be broadly applicable, given the diverse cellular expression of DAF.