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Activated immune cells undergo a metabolic switch to aerobic glycolysis akin to the Warburg effect, thereby presenting a potential therapeutic target in autoimmune disease. Dimethyl fumarate (DMF), a derivative of the Krebs cycle intermediate fumarate, is an immunomodulatory drug used to treat multiple sclerosis and psoriasis. Although its therapeutic mechanism remains uncertain, DMF covalently modifies cysteine residues in a process termed succination. We found that DMF succinates and inactivates the catalytic cysteine of the glycolytic enzyme glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (GAPDH) in mice and humans, both in vitro and in vivo. It thereby down-regulates aerobic glycolysis in activated myeloid and lymphoid cells, which mediates its anti-inflammatory effects. Our results provide mechanistic insight into immune modulation by DMF and represent a proof of concept that aerobic glycolysis is a therapeutic target in autoimmunity.

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One of the more unusual drugs on the market is Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate). I went into its history a bit in this post, if you’re wondering how a molecule that small and unfunctionalized became a multiple sclerosis drug. As that shows, it went into...