Dimethyl fumarate reduces TNF and Plasmodium falciparum induced brain endothelium activation in vitro

Neida K. Mita-Mendoza, Ariel Magallon-Tejada, Priyanka Parmar, Raquel Furtado, Margaret Aldrich, Alex Saidi, Terrie Taylor, Joe Smith, Karl Seydel, Johanna P. Daily

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Cerebral malaria (CM) is associated with morbidity and mortality despite the use of potent anti-malarial agents. Brain endothelial cell activation and dysfunction from oxidative and inflammatory host responses and products released by Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IE), are likely the major contributors to the encephalopathy, seizures, and brain swelling that are associated with CM. The development of adjunctive therapy to reduce the pathological consequences of host response pathways could improve outcomes. A potentially protective role of the nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (NRF2) pathway, which serves as a therapeutic target in brain microvascular diseases and central nervous system (CNS) inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis was tested to protect endothelial cells in an in vitro culture system subjected to tumour necrosis factor (TNF) or infected red blood cell exposure. NRF2 is a transcription factor that mediates anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory responses. Methods: To accurately reflect clinically relevant parasite biology a unique panel of parasite isolates derived from patients with stringently defined CM was developed. The effect of TNF and these parasite lines on primary human brain microvascular endothelial cell (HBMVEC) activation in an in vitro co-culture model was tested. HBMVEC activation was measured by cellular release of IL6 and nuclear translocation of NFκB. The transcriptional and functional effects of dimethyl fumarate (DMF), an FDA approved drug which induces the NRF2 pathway, on host and parasite induced HBMVEC activation was characterized. In addition, the effect of DMF on parasite binding to TNF stimulated HBMVEC in a semi-static binding assay was examined. Results: Transcriptional profiling demonstrates that DMF upregulates the NRF2-Mediated Oxidative Stress Response, ErbB4 Signaling Pathway, Peroxisome Proliferator-activated Receptor (PPAR) Signaling and downregulates iNOS Signaling and the Neuroinflammation Signaling Pathway on TNF activated HBMVEC. The parasite lines derived from eight paediatric CM patients demonstrated increased binding to TNF activated HBMVEC and varied in their binding and activation of HBMVEC. Overall DMF reduced both TNF and CM derived parasite activation of HBMVEC. Conclusions: These findings provide evidence that targeting the NRF2 pathway in TNF and parasite activated HBMVEC mediates multiple protective pathways and may represent a novel adjunctive therapy to improve infection outcomes in CM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number376
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • Cerebral malaria
  • Dimethyl fumarate
  • EPCR
  • Human brain microvascular endothelial cell activation
  • ICAM1
  • IL-6
  • NRF2 pathway
  • Nuclear factor κb
  • TNF

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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