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Dimethyl itaconate, an itaconate derivative, exhibits immunomodulatory effects on neuroinflammation in experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis

Kuo, PC;Weng, WT;Scofield, BA;Paraiso, HC;Brown, DA;Wang, PY;Yu, IC;Yen, JH;

Inflammatory stimuli induce immunoresponsive gene 1 (IRG1) expression that in turn catalyzes the production of itaconate from the tricarboxylic acid cycle. Itaconate has recently emerged as a regulator of immune cell functions, especially in macrophages. Studies show that itaconate is required for the activation of anti-inflammatory transcription factor Nrf2 by LPS in mouse and human macrophages, and LPS-activated IRG1-/- macrophages that lack endogenous itaconate production exhibit augmented inflammatory responses. Moreover, dimethyl itaconate (DMI), an itaconate derivative, inhibits IL-17-induced IB activation in keratinocytes and modulates IL-17-IB pathway-mediated skin inflammation in an animal model of psoriasis. Currently, the effect of itaconate on regulating macrophage functions and peripheral inflammatory immune responses is well established. However, its effect on microglia (MG) and CNS inflammatory immune responses remains unexplored. Thus, we investigated whether itaconate possesses an immunomodulatory effect on regulating MG activation and CNS inflammation in animal models of multiple sclerosis, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Chronic C57BL/6 EAE was induced followed by DMI treatment. The effect of DMI on disease severity, blood-brain barrier (BBB) disruption, MG activation, peripheral Th1/Th17 differentiation, and the CNS infiltration of Th1/Th17 cells in EAE was determined. Primary MG was cultured to study the effect of DMI on MG activation. Relapsing-remitting SJL/J EAE was induced to assess thetherapeutic effect of DMI. Our results show DMI ameliorated disease severity in the chronic C57BL/6 EAE model. Further analysis of the cellular and molecular mechanisms revealed that DMI mitigated BBB disruption, inhibited MMP3/MMP9 production, suppressed microglia activation, inhibited peripheral Th1/Th17 differentiation, and repressed the CNS infiltration of Th1 and Th17 cells. Strikingly, DMI also exhibited a therapeutic effect on alleviating severity of relapse in the relapsing-remitting SJL/J EAE model. We demonstrate that DMI suppresses neuroinflammation and ameliorates disease severity in EAE through multiple cellular and molecular mechanisms, suggesting that DMI can be developed as a novel therapeutic agent for the treatment of MS/EAE through its immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties.