Ethyl pyruvate (EP), a stable form of pyruvate, has shown beneficial effects in animal models of shock, ischemia/reperfusion injury, and sepsis due to its potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Our recent study demonstrated that EP application prevented the clinical manifestation of type 1 diabetes in mice by augmenting regulatory T cell (Treg) number and function. Our present study shows that EP increases Treg proliferation and suppressive function (perforin and IL-10 expression) during in vitro differentiation from conventional CD4+
T cells. Enhanced expansion of Treg after EP treatment correlated with increased ATP levels and relied on increased glycolysis. Inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation did not attenuate EP stimulatory effects, suggesting that this metabolic pathway was not mandatory for EP-driven Treg proliferation. Moreover, EP lowered the expression of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I, an enzyme involved in fatty acid oxidation. Further, the stimulatory effect of EP on Treg proliferation was not mediated through inhibition of the mTOR signaling pathway. When given in vivo either intraperitoneally or orally to healthy C57BL/6 mice, EP increased the number of Treg within the peritoneal cavity or gut-associated lymphoid tissue, respectively. In conclusion, EP promotes in vitro Treg proliferation through increased glycolysis and enhances Treg proliferation when administered in vivo.
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