Atorvastatin rescues hyperhomocysteinemia-induced cognitive deficits and neuroinflammatory gene changes

Erica M. Weekman, Sherika N. Johnson, Colin B. Rogers, Tiffany L. Sudduth, Kevin Xie, Qi Qiao, David W. Fardo, Teodoro Bottiglieri, Donna M. Wilcock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Epidemiological data suggests statins could reduce the risk of dementia, and more specifically, Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Pre-clinical data suggests statins reduce the risk of dementia through their pleiotropic effects rather than their cholesterol lowering effects. While AD is a leading cause of dementia, it is frequently found co-morbidly with cerebral small vessel disease and other vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID), which are another leading cause of dementia. In this study, we determined if atorvastatin ameliorated hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy)-induced VCID. Methods: Wild-type (C57Bl6/J) mice were placed on a diet to induce HHcy or a control diet each with or without atorvastatin for 14 weeks. Mice underwent novel object recognition testing before tissue collection. Plasma total cholesterol and total homocysteine as well as related metabolites were measured. Using qPCR and NanoString technology, we profiled glial cell-associated gene expression changes. Finally, microglial morphology, astrocyte end feet, and microhemorrhages were analyzed using histological methods. Results: Atorvastatin treatment of HHcy in mice led to no changes in total cholesterol but decreases in total homocysteine in plasma. While HHcy decreased expression of many glial genes, atorvastatin rescued these gene changes, which mostly occurred in oligodendrocytes and microglia. Microglia in HHcy mice with atorvastatin were trending towards fewer processes compared to control with atorvastatin, but there were no atorvastatin effects on astrocyte end feet. While atorvastatin treatment was trending towards increasing the area of microhemorrhages in HHcy mice in the frontal cortex, it only slightly (non-significantly) reduced the number of microhemorrhages. Finally, atorvastatin treatment in HHcy mice led to improved cognition on the novel object recognition task. Conclusions: These data suggest that atorvastatin rescued cognitive changes induced by HHcy most likely through lowering plasma total homocysteine and rescuing gene expression changes rather than impacts on vascular integrity or microglial changes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number199
JournalJournal of Neuroinflammation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, BioMed Central Ltd., part of Springer Nature.


  • Astrocyte end-feet
  • Atorvastatin
  • Cholesterol
  • Hyperhomocysteinemia
  • Microglia
  • Microhemorrhages
  • Neuroinflammation
  • Vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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