Carbon monoxide reverses the metabolic adaptation of microglia cells to an inflammatory stimulus

J.L. Wilson, F. Bouillaud, A.S. Almeida, H.L. Vieira, M.O. Ouidja, J.-L. Dubois-Randé, R. Foresti, R. Motterlini

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45 Citations (Scopus)


Microglia fulfill important immunological functions in the brain by responding to pathological stresses and modulating their activities according to pro- or anti-inflammatory stimuli. Recent evidence indicates that changes in metabolism accompany the switch in microglia activation state, favoring glycolysis over oxidative phosphorylation when cells exhibit a pro-inflammatory phenotype. Carbon monoxide (CO), a byproduct of heme breakdown by heme oxygenase, exerts anti-inflammatory action and affects mitochondrial function in cells and tissues. In the present study, we analyzed the metabolic profile of BV2 and primary mouse microglia exposed to the CO-releasing molecules CORM-401 and CORM-A1 and investigated whether CO affects the metabolic adaptation of cells to the inflammatory stimulus lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Microglia respiration and glycolysis were measured using an Extracellular Flux Analyzer to provide a real-time bioenergetic assessment, and biochemical parameters were evaluated to define the metabolic status of the cells under normal or inflammatory conditions. We show that CO prevents LPS-induced depression of microglia respiration and reduction in ATP levels while altering the early expression of inflammatory markers, suggesting the metabolic changes induced by CO are associated with control of inflammation. CO alone affects microglia respiration depending on the concentration, as low levels increase oxygen consumption while higher amounts inhibit respiration. Increased oxygen consumption was attributed to an uncoupling activity observed in cells, at the molecular level (respiratory complex activities) and during challenge with LPS. Thus, application of CO is a potential countermeasure to reverse the metabolic changes that occur during microglia inflammation and in turn modulate their inflammatory profile. © 2017 Elsevier Inc.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-323
Number of pages13
JournalFree Radical Biology And Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Carbon monoxide
  • Glycolysis
  • Inflammation
  • Microglia
  • Mitochondria
  • Uncoupling
  • adenosine triphosphate
  • arginase 1
  • biological marker
  • carbon monoxide
  • cytochrome c oxidase
  • inducible nitric oxide synthase
  • interleukin 10
  • interleukin 1beta
  • interleukin 6
  • interleukin 8
  • lipopolysaccharide
  • manganese derivative
  • reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide dehydrogenase (ubiquinone)
  • sodium derivative
  • somatomedin C
  • succinate dehydrogenase (ubiquinone)
  • transforming growth factor beta
  • tumor necrosis factor
  • ubiquinol cytochrome c reductase
  • vasculotropin A
  • adaptation
  • animal cell
  • Article
  • biochemical analysis
  • bioenergy
  • brain metabolism
  • cell metabolism
  • controlled study
  • female
  • glycolysis
  • inflammation
  • metabolic regulation
  • microglia
  • mitochondrial membrane potential
  • mouse
  • neuromodulation
  • nonhuman
  • oxygen consumption
  • priority journal
  • protein expression


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