Chronic treatment with simvastatin upregulates muscarinic M1/4 receptor binding in the rat brain
Statins are increasingly being used for the treatment of a variety of conditions beyond their original indication for cholesterol lowering. We previously reported that simvastatin affected the dopaminergic system in the rat brain. This study aims to investigate regional changes of muscarinic M1/4 receptors in the rat brain after 4-week administration of simvastatin (1 or 10 mg/kg/day). M1/4 receptor distribution and alterations in the post-mortem rat brain were detected by [3H]pirenzepine binding autoradiography. Simvastatin (1 mg/kg/day) increased [3H]pirenzepine binding, predominantly in the prefrontal cortex (171%, P<0.001), primary motor cortex (153%, P=0.001), cingulate cortex (109%, P<0.001), hippocampus (138%, P<0.001), caudate putamen (122%, P=0.002) and nucleus accumbens (170%, P<0.001) compared with controls; while lower but still significant increases of [3H]pirenzepine binding were observed in the examined regions following simvastatin (10 mg/kg/day) treatment. Our results also provide strong evidence that chronic simvastatin administration, especially at a low dosage, up-regulates M1/4 receptor binding, which is likely to be independent of its muscarinic agonist-like effect. Alterations in [3H]pirenzepine binding in the examined brain areas may represent the specific regions that mediate the clinical effects of simvastatin treatment on cognition and memory via the muscarinic cholinergic system. These findings contribute to a better understanding of the critical roles of simvastatin in treating neurodegenerative disorders, via muscarinic receptors.