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Succinate is an inflammatory signal that induces IL-1β through HIF-1α


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Macrophages activated by the Gram-negative bacterial product lipopolysaccharide switch their core metabolism from oxidative phosphorylation to glycolysis1. Here we show that inhibition of glycolysis with 2-deoxyglucose suppresses lipopolysaccharide-induced interleukin-1β but not tumour-necrosis factor-α in mouse macrophages. A comprehensive metabolic map of lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages shows upregulation of glycolytic and downregulation of mitochondrial genes, which correlates directly with the expression profiles of altered metabolites. Lipopolysaccharide strongly increases the levels of the tricarboxylic-acid cycle intermediate succinate. Glutamine-dependent anerplerosis is the principal source of succinate, although the ‘GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) shunt’ pathway also has a role. Lipopolysaccharide-induced succinate stabilizes hypoxia-inducible factor-1α, an effect that is inhibited by 2-deoxyglucose, with interleukin-1β as an important target. Lipopolysaccharide also increases succinylation of several proteins. We therefore identify succinate as a metabolite in innate immune signalling, which enhances interleukin-1β production during inflammation.

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Figure 1: Glycolysis is necessary for LPS-induced IL-1β expression.
Figure 2: HIF-1α is responsible for LPS-induced IL-1β expression.
Figure 3: Succinate is induced by LPS to drive HIF-1α-induced IL-1β expression.
Figure 4: Glutamine is the source of LPS-induced succinate.

Change history

  • 10 April 2013

    The product code for the anti-HIF-1α antibody was corrected.


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We thank the European Research Council, Science Foundation Ireland, the Health Research Board, European Union FP7 programme ‘TIMER’, Wellcome Trust, National Institutes of Health, Helmsley Trust, Nestle Research Centre, VESKI, The Duquesne University Hunkele Dreaded Disease Award, The Interleukin Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council for funding. We also thank R. Thompson for assistance with Hif1a−/− mice and M. Murphy for discussions.

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Authors and Affiliations



G.M.T. designed and did experiments, analysed data and wrote the paper; L.A.J.O. conceived ideas and oversaw the research programme; A.M.C, E.M.P., A.F.M. and J.A. designed and did experiments and analysed data; C.F., N.J.B., B.K., N.H.F., L.Z., A.G., Z.T., S.S.J., S.C.C., S.W., K.P. and F.C.B did experiments; G.G., R.J.X., C.C., M.H. and B.E.C. performed bioinformatic analysis; E.C., V.N., M.W., C.T.T., H.L., S.L.M., E.G., V.K. and C.C., provided advice and reagents; P.E.A. and R.J.X. conceived ideas and oversaw a portion of the work.

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Correspondence to L. A. J. O’Neill.

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Tannahill, G., Curtis, A., Adamik, J. et al. Succinate is an inflammatory signal that induces IL-1β through HIF-1α. Nature 496, 238–242 (2013).

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