Lovastatin Inhibits VEGFR and AKT Activation: Synergistic Cytotoxicity in Combination with VEGFR Inhibitors
Tong T. Zhao, Diane Trinh, Christina L. Addison, Jim Dimitroulakos
PLoS ONE 5(9): e12563. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012563
In a recent study, we demonstrated the ability of lovastatin, a potent inhibitor of mevalonate synthesis, to inhibit the function of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Lovastatin attenuated ligand-induced receptor activation and downstream signaling through the PI3K/AKT pathway. Combining lovastatin with gefitinib, a potent EGFR inhibitor, induced synergistic cytotoxicity in a variety of tumor derived cell lines. The vascular endothelial growth factor receptor (VEGFR) and EGFR share similar activation, internalization and downstream signaling characteristics.
The VEGFRs, particularly VEGFR-2 (KDR, Flt-1), play important roles in regulating tumor angiogenesis by promoting endothelial cell proliferation, survival and migration. Certain tumors, such as malignant mesothelioma (MM), also express both the VEGF ligand and VEGFRs that act in an autocrine loop to directly stimulate tumor cell growth and survival. In this study, we have shown that lovastatin inhibits ligand-induced VEGFR-2 activation through inhibition of receptor internalization and also inhibits VEGF activation of AKT in human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVEC) and H28 MM cells employing immunofluorescence and Western blotting. Combinations of lovastatin and a VEGFR-2 inhibitor showed more robust AKT inhibition than either agent alone in the H28 MM cell line. Furthermore, combining 5 µM lovastatin treatment, a therapeutically relevant dose, with two different VEGFR-2 inhibitors in HUVEC and the H28 and H2052 mesothelioma derived cell lines demonstrated synergistic cytotoxicity as demonstrated by MTT cell viability and flow cytometric analyses.
These results highlight a novel mechanism by which lovastatin can regulate VEGFR-2 function and a potential therapeutic approach for MM through combining statins with VEGFR-2 inhibitors.