Fumarates promote cytoprotection of central nervous system cells against oxidative stress via the nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 pathway

Robert H. Scannevin, Sowmya Chollate, Mi Young Jung, Melanie Shackett, Hiral Patel, Pradeep Bista, Weike Zeng, Sarah Ryan, Masayuki Yamamoto, Matvey Lukashev, Kenneth J. Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

366 Citations (Scopus)


Oxidative stress is central to the pathology of several neurodegenerative diseases, including multiple sclerosis, and therapeutics designed to enhance antioxidant potential could have clinical value. The objective of this study was to characterize the potential direct neuroprotective effects of dimethyl fumarate (DMF) and its primary metabolite monomethyl fumarate (MMF) on cellular resistance to oxidative damage in primary cultures of central nervous system (CNS) cells and further explore the dependence and function of the nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2) pathway in this process. Treatment of animals or primary cultures of CNS cells with DMF or MMF resulted in increased nuclear levels of active Nrf2, with subsequent up-regulation of canonical antioxidant target genes. DMF-dependent up-regulation of antioxidant genes in vivo was lost in mice lacking Nrf2 [Nrf2(-/-)]. DMF or MMF treatment increased cellular redox potential, glutathione, ATP levels, and mitochondrial membrane potential in a concentration-dependent manner. Treating astrocytes or neurons with DMF or MMF also significantly improved cell viability after toxic oxidative challenge in a concentration-dependent manner. This effect on viability was lost in cells that had eliminated or reduced Nrf2. These data suggest that DMF and MMF are cytoprotective for neurons and astrocytes against oxidative stress-induced cellular injury and loss, potentially via up-regulation of an Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response. These data also suggest DMF and MMF may function through improving mitochondrial function. The clinical utility of DMF in multiple sclerosis is being explored through phase III trials with BG-12, which is an oral therapeutic containing DMF as the active ingredient.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-284
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Apr


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