Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an endogenous lipophilic quinone, ubiquitous in biological membranes and endowed with antioxidant and bioenergetic properties, both crucial to the aging process. In fact, coenzyme Q10 synthesis is known to decrease with age in different tissues including skin. Moreover, synthesis can be inhibited by 3-hydroxy-3-methyl-glutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors such as statins, that are widely used hypocholesterolemic drugs. They target a key enzymatic step along the mevalonate pathway, involved in the synthesis of both cholesterol and isoprenylated compounds including CoQ10.

In the present study, we show that pharmacological CoQ10 deprivation at concentrations of statins > 10000 nM triggers intracellular oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction and generates cell death in human dermal fibroblasts (HDF). On the contrary, at lower statin concentrations, cells and mainly mitochondria, are able to partially adapt and prevent oxidative imbalance and overt mitochondrial toxicity. Importantly, our data demonstrate that CoQ10 decrease promotes mitochondrial permeability transition and bioenergetic dysfunction leading to premature aging of human dermal fibroblasts in vitro.