Insensitivity to atorvastatin is associated with increased accumulation of intracellular lipid droplets and fatty acid metabolism in breast cancer cells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Apart from the relevant lipid-lowering effects, statins have demonstrated significant, although heterogeneous, anti-tumor activities in preventing breast cancer (BC) progression. To characterize the critical pathways behind the diverse responses to therapy, we investigated statin-induced changes in regulation of lipid metabolism and abundance of neutral lipid-containing cytoplasmic lipid droplets (LDs) in BC cells displaying different sensitivity to atorvastatin. Following atorvastatin treatment, accumulated LD levels inversely mirrored the marginal anti-proliferative effects in a dose and time-dependent manner in the less-sensitive BC cells. Transcriptional profiling excluded dysregulation of lipid uptake and efflux as specific mechanisms associated with differences in LD accumulation and anti-proliferative effects of atorvastatin. Notably, significant upregulation of genes involved in unsaturated fatty acid metabolism [stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD)] and cholesterol biosynthesis [3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase (HMGCR)], were associated with atorvastatin insensitivity. Taken together, the increased ability to store neutral lipids in LDs as consequence of atorvastatin treatment likely confers a proliferative advantage to BC cells and may serve as potential biomarker of statin resistance in BC. Contributions of cholesterol biosynthesis and unsaturated fatty acid metabolism to LD formation should be thoroughly explored for better understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying statin-induced effects against BC progression.


External organisations
  • Skåne University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cancer and Oncology
Original languageEnglish
Article number5462
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2018 Dec 1
Publication categoryResearch