Journal of Applied Physiology


Background: Statins are cholesterol-lowering drugs widely used in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases; however, they are associated with various types of myopathies. Statins inhibit HMG-CoA reductase and thus decrease biosynthesis of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and may also reduce ubiquinones, essential coenzymes of a mitochondrial electron transport chain, which contain isoprenoid residues, synthesized through an HMG-CoA reductase-dependent pathway. Therefore, we hypothesized that statin treatment might influence physical performance through muscular mitochondrial dysfunction due to ubiquinone deficiency. Methods and Results: The effect of two statins, atorvastatin and pravastatin, on ubiquinone content, mitochondrial function and physical performance was examined by using statin-treated mice. Changes in energy metabolism in association with statin-treatment were studied by using cultured myocytes. We found that atorvastatin-treated mice developed muscular mitochondrial dysfunction due to ubiquinone deficiency and a decrease in exercise endurance without affecting muscle mass and strength. Meanwhile, pravastatin at ten times higher dose of atorvastatin had no such effects. In cultured myocytes, atorvastatin-related decrease in mitochondrial activity led to a decrease in oxygen utilization and an increase in lactate production. Conversely, coenzyme Q10 treatment in atorvastatin-treated mice reversed atorvastatin-related mitochondrial dysfunction and a decrease in oxygen utilization, and thus improved exercise endurance. Conclusion: Atorvastatin decreased exercise endurance in mice through mitochondrial dysfunction due to ubiquinone deficiency. Ubiquinone supplementation with coenzyme Q10 could reverse atorvastatin-related mitochondrial dysfunction and decrease in exercise tolerance.

  • statins
  • coenzyme Q10
  • exercise
  • mitochondria
  • oxygen utilization