Cholesterol-clobbering drugs called statins do their good work via the molecular equivalent of a sit-down strike, report researchers in the May 11 Science. The researchers used X-ray crystallography to determine the detailed structure of six different types of statins. From these, they deduced that the proteins interrupt a cascade of cholesterol-building events by physically blocking the binding site of an enzyme called HMGR.
Millions of people in the United States have high concentrations of cholesterol in their blood, a situation that can lead to blocked arteries and heart disease. Statins inhibit the body's cholesterol synthesis and, along with exercise and changes in diet, can dramatically reduce cholesterol counts. However, the molecular action of statins has remained largely unknown.
Now, Eva S. Istvan of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Washington University in Saint Louis and Johann Deisenhofer at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Cente