Methylglyoxal (MGO) is a highly reactive metabolite generated by glycolysis. Although abnormal accumulation of MGO has been reported in several autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, the role of MGO in autoimmune diseases has not yet been fully investigated. In this study, we found that the intracellular MGO levels increased in activated immune cells, such as microglia and lymphocytes. Treatment with MGO inhibited inflammatory cell accumulation in the spinal cord and ameliorated the clinical symptoms in EAE mice. Further analysis indicated that MGO suppressed M1-polarization of microglia cells and diminished their inflammatory cytokine production. MGO also inhibited the ability of microglial cells to recruit and activate lymphocytes by decreasing chemokine secretion and expression of co-stimulatory molecules. Furthermore, MGO negatively regulated glycolysis by suppressing glucose transporter 1 expression. Mechanically, we found that MGO could activate nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2) pathway and NRF2 could bind to the promoter of IκBζ gene and suppressed its transcription and subsequently pro-inflammatory cytokine production. In conclusion, our results showed that MGO acts as an immunosuppressive metabolite by activating the NRF2-IκBζ.