Hydrophobic but not hydrophilic statins enhance phagocytosis and decrease apoptosis of human peripheral blood cells in vitro

Hertzel Salman, Michael Bergman, Meir Djaldetti*, Hanna Bessler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The engulfing ability of phagocyting cells is related to the fluidity of the cell membrane that in turn depends on its chemical composition. Changes in membranal lipid content may increase or decrease membranal fluidity with a subsequent enhanced or impaired phagocytosis, respectively. Statins are recognized as potent inhibitors of cholesterol synthesis and therefore, are successfully administered to patients with hypercholesterolemia. Since it is considered that cholesterol affects cell function via changes in membrane composition, the present study was designed to examine the in vitro effect of three hydrophobic statins - atorvastatin, lovastatin and simvastatin, and a hydrophilic one - pravastatin, on the engulfing capacity, phagocytic index and apoptosis of peripheral blood phagocytes from healthy volunteers. Peripheral white blood cells obtained from 20 healthy normocholesterolemic individuals were incubated for 2 h with 10 and 50 μM of the four statins and phagocytosis of fluorescent latex particles was detected by flow cytometry. Apoptosis was examined using annexin V and propidium iodide staining. An increase in the percentage of phagocyting cells was observed after incubation with 50 μM of lovastatin and simvastatin. On the other hand, all three hydrophobic statins induced a dose-dependent increase in the phagocytic index. The hydrophilic pravastatin did not affect phagocytosis, phagocytic index and apoptosis. All three hydrophobic statins at 50 μM exerted a slight, but significant decrease of apoptosis. The results suggest that the effect of hydrophobic statins on the engulfing capacity of human peripheral blood phagocytes and apoptosis is dependent on their dosage and physiochemical properties. This observation is an additional contribution to the statins' pleiotropic effect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-45
Number of pages5
JournalBiomedicine and Pharmacotherapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Phagocytosis
  • Statins


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