Plumbagin protects mice from lethal sepsis by modulating immunometabolism upstream of PKM2

Zhaoxia Zhang, Wenjun Deng, Rui Kang, Min Xie, Timothy Billiar, Haichao Wang, Lizhi Cao*, Daolin Tang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Sepsis is characterized by dysregulated systemic inflammation with release of early (for example, interleukin (IL)-1β) and late (for example, HMGB1) proinflammatory mediators from macrophages. Plumbagin, a medicinal plant-derived naphthoquinone, has been reported to exhibit antiinflammatory activity, but the underling mechanisms remain unclear. Here, we have demonstrated that plumbagin inhibits the inflammatory response through interfering with the immunometabolism pathway in activated macrophages. Remarkably, plumbagin inhibited lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced aerobic glycolysis by downregulating the expression of pyruvate kinase M2 (PKM2), a protein kinase responsible for the final and rate-limiting reaction step of the glycolytic pathway. Moreover, the NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4)-mediated oxidative stress was required for LPS-induced PKM2 expression, because pharmacologic or genetic inhibition of NOX4 by plumbagin or RNA interference limited LPS-induced PKM2 expression, lactate production and subsequent proinflammatory cytokine (IL-1β and HMGB1) release in macrophages. Finally, plumbagin protected mice from lethal endotoxemia and polymicrobial sepsis induced by cecal ligation and puncture. These findings identify a new approach for inhibiting the NOX4/PKM2-dependent immunometabolism pathway in the treatment of sepsis and inflammatory diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-172
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular medicine (Cambridge, Mass.)
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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