HMG-CoA reductase promotes protein prenylation and therefore is indispensible for T-cell survival Academic Article uri icon


  • Statins are a well-established family of drugs that lower cholesterol levels via the competitive inhibition of the enzyme 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase (HMGCR). In addition, the pleiotropic anti-inflammatory effects of statins on T cells make them attractive as therapeutic drugs in T-cell-driven autoimmune disorders. Since statins do not exclusively target HMGCR and thus might have varying effects on different cell types, we generated a new mouse strain allowing for the tissue-specific deletion of HMGCR. Deletion of HMGCR expression in T cells led to a severe decrease in their numbers with the remaining cells displaying an activated phenotype, with an increased proportion of regulatory T cells (Tregs) in particular. However, deletion of HMGCR specifically in Tregs resulted in severe autoimmunity, suggesting that this enzyme is also essential for the maintenance of Tregs. We were able to prevent the death of HMGCR-deficient lymphocytes by the addition of either the direct metabolite of HMGCR, namely mevalonate, or the downstream metabolite geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate, which is essential for protein prenylation. However, the addition of cholesterol, which is the final product of the mevalonate pathway, did not inhibit cell death, indicating that protein prenylation rather than the cholesterol biosynthesis pathway is indispensible for T-cell survival.


  • Lacher, Sonja M
  • Bruttger, Julia
  • Kalt, Bettina
  • Berthelet, Jean
  • Rajalingam, Krishnaraj
  • Wörtge, Simone
  • Waisman, Ari

publication date

  • 2017