Dimethyl fumarate modulation of immune and antioxidant responses: application to HIV therapy

Crit Rev Immunol. 2013;33(4):307-59. doi: 10.1615/critrevimmunol.2013007247.


The persistence of chronic immune activation and oxidative stress in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected, antiretroviral drug-treated individuals are major obstacles to fully preventing HIV disease progression. The immune modulator and antioxidant dimethyl fumarate (DMF) is effective in treating immune-mediated diseases and it also has potential applications to limiting HIV disease progression. Among the relevant effects of DMF and its active metabolite monomethyl fumarate (MMF) are induction of a Th1 to Th2 lymphocyte shift, inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokine signaling, inhibition of NF-κB nuclear translocation, inhibition of dendritic cell maturation, suppression of lymphocyte and endothelial cell adhesion molecule expression, and induction of the Nrf2-dependent antioxidant response element (ARE) and effector genes. Associated with these effects are reduced lymphocyte and monocyte infiltration into psoriatic skin lesions in humans and immune-mediated demyelinating brain lesions in rodents, which confirms potent systemic and central nervous system (CNS) effects. In addition, DMF and MMF limit HIV infection in macrophages in vitro, albeit by unknown mechanisms. Finally, DMF and MMF also suppress neurotoxin production from HIV-infected macrophages, which drives CNS neurodegeneration. Thus, DMF might protect against systemic and CNS complications in HIV infection through its effective suppression of immune activation, oxidative stress, HIV replication, and macrophage-associated neuronal injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Central Nervous System Diseases / etiology
  • Dimethyl Fumarate
  • Fumarates / immunology*
  • Fumarates / metabolism
  • HIV Infections / complications
  • HIV Infections / immunology*
  • HIV Infections / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Virus Replication


  • Antioxidants
  • Fumarates
  • Dimethyl Fumarate