Astrocytes utilize both glycolytic and mitochondrial pathways to power cellular processes that are vital to maintaining normal CNS functions. These cells also mount inflammatory and acute phase reactive programs in response to diverse stimuli. While the metabolic functions of astrocytes under homeostatic conditions are well-studied, the role of cellular bioenergetics in astrocyte reactivity is poorly understood. Teriflunomide exerts immunomodulatory effects in diseases such as multiple sclerosis by metabolically reprogramming lymphocytes and myeloid cells. We hypothesized that teriflunomide would constrain astrocytic inflammatory responses. Purified murine astrocytes were grown under serum-free conditions to prevent acquisition of a spontaneous reactive state. Stimulation with TNFα activated NFκB and increased secretion of Lcn2. TNFα stimulation increased basal respiration, maximal respiration, and ATP production in astrocytes, as assessed by oxygen consumption rate. TNFα also increased glycolytic reserve and glycolytic capacity of astrocytes but did not change the basal glycolytic rate, as assessed by measuring the extracellular acidification rate. TNFα specifically increased mitochondrial ATP production and secretion of Lcn2 required ATP generated by oxidative phosphorylation. Inhibition of dihydroorotate dehydrogenase via teriflunomide transiently increased both oxidative phosphorylation and glycolysis in quiescent astrocytes, but only the increased glycolytic ATP production was sustained over time, resulting in a bias away from mitochondrial ATP production even at doses down to 1 μM. Preconditioning with teriflunomide prevented the TNFα-induced skew toward oxidative phosphorylation, reduced mitochondrial ATP production, and reduced astrocytic inflammatory responses, suggesting that this drug may limit neuroinflammation by acting as a metabolomodulator.
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