Esters of alpha-oxo-carbonic acids such as ethyl pyruvate (EP) have been demonstrated to exert inhibitory effects on the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. So far, there is no information about effects, if any, of ethyl lactate (EL), an obviously inactive analogue of EP, on inflammatory immune responses. In the present study, we provide evidence that the anti-inflammatory action of alpha-oxo-carbonic acid esters is mediated by inhibition of glyoxalases (Glo), cytosolic enzymes that catalyse the conversion of alpha-oxo-aldehydes such as methylglyoxal (MGO) into the corresponding alpha-hydroxy acids using glutathione as a cofactor. In vitro enzyme activity measurements revealed the inhibition of human Glo1 by alpha-oxo-carbonic acid esters, whilst alpha-hydroxy-carbonic acid esters such as EL were not inhibitory. In contrast, both EP and EL were shown to suppress the Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced production of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha, interleukin (IL)-1beta, IL-6 and IL-8 from human immunocompetent cells, and modulated the expression of the immune receptors HLA-DR, CD14 and CD91 on human monocytes. Here, we show a crossing link between glyoxalases and the immune system. The results described herein introduce glyoxalases as a possible target for therapeutic approaches of immune suppression.