Sepsis is characterized by an inappropriate host immune-inflammatory response and sustained oxidative damage. Nrf2, a bZIP oxidant-responsive transcription factor, regulates a battery of cytoprotective genes including antioxidants and maintains cellular redox homeostasis. Mouse studies have demonstrated a critical role of Nrf2 in improving survival during sepsis. This preclinical ex vivo study using neutrophils and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) as a surrogate cells evaluates the efficacy of CDDO-Im and CDDO-Me [imidazole and methyl ester derivative of 2-cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9(11)-dien-28-oic acid (CDDO)] to activate the Nrf2 pathway and protect from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced inflammatory response in humans. CDDO-Im treatment significantly induced Nrf2-dependent antioxidative genes (HO-1, GCLC, GCLM, and NQO1) in PBMCs isolated from six normal subjects. CDDO-Im increased nuclear accumulation of Nrf2 protein. Pretreatment of PBMC by CDDO-Im significantly attenuated LPS-induced cytokine expression. Similar increases in levels of antioxidant genes and suppression of LPS-induced cytokine expression was observed after CDDO-Me pretreatment. CDDO-Im also greatly inhibited LPS, fMLP, TNF-alpha, and TPA-induced ROS generation in neutrophils. In conclusion, these results demonstrate that activation of the Nrf2-dependent antioxidative pathway by CDDO-Im or CDDO-Me protects against the LPS-induced inflammatory response and suggest that they can be potential therapeutic candidates for intervening sepsis syndrome.