1. Inhibition of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase by simvastatin leads to inhibition of both cell growth and Na+/H+ antiport activity. The effect of simvastatin on intracellular pH and Na+/H+ antiport activity was therefore studied on an adherent cell line, the SV40-virus-transformed MRC5 human fibroblast.
2. Simvastatin led to a dose-dependent decrease in intracellular pH, attributed to a reduction in Na+/H+ exchange, together with a rounding of cell shape. Mevalonate (1 mmol/l) prevented these effects of simvastatin, and when added after inhibition of the antiport by simvastatin, reversed these changes within 1–2 h.
3. The phenomenon of mevalonate reversal of anti-port inhibition by simvastatin was not sensitive to cycloheximide, indicating its post-translational nature. This was also consistent with the short period of incubation with mevalonate leading to reversal of antiport inhibition (1-2h). These changes in intracellular pH regulation were not due to alterations in cell cholesterol content.
4. A variety of inhibitors of post-translational processes, such as N-linked glycosylation (tunicamycin), phosphorylation (staurosporine), isoprenylation (farnesol, limonene), and of pertussis-toxin-sensitive G-proteins or calmodulin (W7), had no effect on the reversal by mevalonate of simvastatin-induced changes in Na+/H+ antiport activity.
5. N-Ethylmaleimide (50 μmol/l for 5 min) prevented mevalonate reversing the effects of simvastatin, suggesting the importance of thiol groups in the phenomenon of reversal of the inhibition of Na+/H+ antiport activity by simvastatin. Furthermore, concurrent incubation of simvastatin-treated cells with dithiothreitol (1 mmol/l) and N-ethylmaleimide restored the ability of mevalonate to reverse the inhibitory effects of simvastatin on Na+H+ antiport activity.