Pro-inflammatory macrophages sustain pyruvate oxidation through pyruvate dehydrogenase for the synthesis of itaconate and to enable cytokine expression

Johannes Meiser, Lisa Krämer, Sean C. Sapcariu, Nadia Battello, Jenny Ghelfi, Aymeric Fouquier D'Herouel, Alexander Skupin, Karsten Hiller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

159 Citations (Scopus)


Uponstimulation withTh1cytokines or bacterial lipopolysaccharides, resting macrophages shift their phenotype toward a pro-inflammatory state as part of the innate immune response. LPS-activated macrophages undergo profound metabolic changes to adapt to these new physiological requirements. One key step to mediate this metabolic adaptation is the stabilization of HIF1, which leads to increased glycolysis and lactate release, as well as decreased oxygen consumption. HIF1 abundance can result in the induction of the gene encoding pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDK1), which inhibits pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) via phosphorylation. Therefore, it has been speculated that pyruvate oxidation through PDH is decreased in pro-inflammatory macrophages. However, to answer this open question, an in-depth analysis of this metabolic branching point was so far lacking. In this work, we applied stable isotope-assisted metabolomics techniques and demonstrate that pyruvate oxidation is maintained in mature pro-inflammatory macrophages. Glucose-derived pyruvate is oxidized via PDH to generate citrate in the mitochondria. Citrate is used for the synthesis of the antimicrobial metabolite itaconate and for lipogenesis. An increased demand for these metabolites decreases citrate oxidation through the tricarboxylic acid cycle, whereas increased glutamine uptake serves to replenish the TCA cycle. Furthermore, we found that the PDH flux is maintained by unchanged PDK1 abundance, despite the presence of HIF1. By pharmacological intervention, we demonstrate that the PDH flux is an important node for M(LPS) macrophage activation. Therefore, PDH represents a metabolic intervention point that might become a research target for translational medicine to treat chronic inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3932-3946
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


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