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Inflammatory macrophages reprogram to immunosuppression by reducing mitochondrial translation.

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Martinez-Campanario, MC  ORCID logo
Domínguez, Verónica 


Acute inflammation can either resolve through immunosuppression or persist, leading to chronic inflammation. These transitions are driven by distinct molecular and metabolic reprogramming of immune cells. The anti-diabetic drug Metformin inhibits acute and chronic inflammation through mechanisms still not fully understood. Here, we report that the anti-inflammatory and reactive-oxygen-species-inhibiting effects of Metformin depend on the expression of the plasticity factor ZEB1 in macrophages. Using mice lacking Zeb1 in their myeloid cells and human patient samples, we show that ZEB1 plays a dual role, being essential in both initiating and resolving inflammation by inducing macrophages to transition into an immunosuppressed state. ZEB1 mediates these diverging effects in inflammation and immunosuppression by modulating mitochondrial content through activation of autophagy and inhibition of mitochondrial protein translation. During the transition from inflammation to immunosuppression, Metformin mimics the metabolic reprogramming of myeloid cells induced by ZEB1. Mechanistically, in immunosuppression, ZEB1 inhibits amino acid uptake, leading to downregulation of mTORC1 signalling and a decrease in mitochondrial translation in macrophages. These results identify ZEB1 as a driver of myeloid cell metabolic plasticity, suggesting that targeting its expression and function could serve as a strategy to modulate dysregulated inflammation and immunosuppression.


Acknowledgements: We are grateful to Dr. F. Sanchez-Madrid (Hospital Princesa and CNIC, Madrid, Spain), Dr. D. Cebrian (CNIC, Madrid, Spain), and Dr. A. Valledor (University of Barcelona, Spain) for helpful insights on early versions of the manuscript. We thank Dr. C. Stephan-Otto Attolini (BIST-IRB, Barcelona, Spain) and Dr. J. Rios (IDIBAPS, Hospital Clinic, and Autonomous University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain) for their expert guidance on the statistical analyses of the data in the study. We also thank Dr. L. Ribas de Pouplana (BIST-IRB, Barcelona, Spain) for advice on mitochondrial translation experiments. We acknowledge technical assistance by staff in the Flow Cytometry Unit at IDIBAPS, the Molecular Interactions Services Unit at the Biomedical Research Institute of Bellvitge (IDIBELL), and the Transmission Electron Microscopy Unit at the University of Barcelona School of Medicine. We also thank A Téllez (Hospital Clinic, Barcelona, Spain) for his help in collecting samples from septic patients, and Dr. MJ Fernández-Aceñero (Hospital Clinico San Carlos, Madrid, Spain) for help in collecting skin samples from healthy controls, psoriatic patients, and melanoma patients. We are also thankful to Dr. DC Dean (University of Louisville, KY, USA) for his generous gift of an anti-ZEB1 polyclonal antibody. We thank Dr. A. Garcia for the artistic drawing of schematics in the article. IDIBAPS is partly funded by the CERCA Programme of Generalitat de Catalunya. The study was conducted at IDIBAPS’ Centre de Recerca Biomèdica Cellex building, which was partly funded by the Cellex Foundation. The different parts of this study were independently funded by grants to AP from the Leo Foundation (LF-OC-19-000166), the Catalan Agency for Management of University and Research Grants (AGAUR) (2017-SGR-1174 and 2021-SGR-01328), and the Spanish State Research Agency (AEI) of the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MICINN) (PID2020-116338RB-I00) as part of MICINN’s National Scientific and Technical Research and Innovation 2021-2023 Plan, which is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) of the European Union Commission. AB is a recipient of a PhD scholarship from AGAUR (FI Program, 2021 FI_B 00514).

Funder: Government of Catalonia | Agència de Gestió d'Ajuts Universitaris i de Recerca (Agency for Management of University and Research Grants)


Humans, Animals, Mice, Macrophages, Myeloid Cells, Inflammation, Metformin, Immunosuppression Therapy

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Nat Commun

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC
LEO Pharma Research Foundation (LF-OC-19-000166)
Government of Catalonia | Agència de Gestió d&apos (2021-SGR-01328, FI Program, 2021 FI_B 00514)
Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness | Agencia Estatal de Investigación (Spanish Agencia Estatal de Investigación) (PID2020-116338RB-I00)