DMF (dimethyl fumarate) exerts anti-inflammatory and pro-metabolic effects in a variety of cell types, and a formulation (BG-12) is being evaluated for monotherapy in multiple sclerosis patients. DMF modifies glutathione (GSH) levels that can induce expression of the anti-inflammatory protein HO-1 (haem oxygenase-1). In primary astrocytes and C6 glioma cells, BG-12 dose-dependently suppressed nitrite production induced by either LI [LPS (lipopolysaccharide) at 1 μg/ml plus IFNγ (interferon γ) at 20 units/ml] or a mixture of pro-inflammatory cytokines, with greater efficacy in C6 cells. BG-12 reduced NOS2 (nitric oxide synthase 2) mRNA levels and activation of a NOS2 promoter, reduced nuclear levels of NF-κB (nuclear factor κB) p65 subunit and attenuated loss of IκBα (inhibitory κBα) in both cell types, although with greater effects in astrocytes. In astrocytes, LI decreased mRNA levels for GSHr (GSH reductase) and GCL (c-glutamylcysteine synthetase), and slightly suppressed GSHs (GSH synthetase) mRNAs. Co-treatment with BG-12 prevented those decreased and increased levels above control values. In contrast, LI reduced GSHp (GSH peroxidase) and GCL in C6 cells, and BG-12 had no effect on those levels. BG-12 increased nuclear levels of Nrf2 (nuclear factor-erythroid 2 p45 subunit-related factor 2), an inducer of GSH-related enzymes, in astrocytes but not C6 cells. In astrocytes, GSH was decreased by BG-12 at 2 h and increased at 24 h. Prior depletion of GSH using buthionine-sulfoximine increased the ability of BG-12 to reduce nitrites. In astrocytes, BG-12 increased HO-1 mRNA levels and effects on nitrite levels were blocked by an HO-1 inhibitor. These results demonstrate that BG-12 suppresses inflammatory activation in astrocytes and C6 glioma cells, but with distinct mechanisms, different dependence on GSH and different effects on transcription factor activation.