Quercetin and Ascorbic Acid Suppress Fructose-Induced NLRP3 Inflammasome Activation by Blocking Intracellular Shuttling of TXNIP in Human Macrophage Cell Lines

Inflammation. 2017 Jun;40(3):980-994. doi: 10.1007/s10753-017-0542-4.


The aim of this study was to identify the role of thioredoxin-interacting protein (TXNIP) and its interaction with antioxidants in the activation of the fructose-induced NOD-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome in human macrophages. The study was performed with U937 and THP-1 macrophage cell lines. Total reactive oxygen species (ROS) were measured by flow cytometry. Interleukin-1β (IL-1β), IL-18, NLRP3, TXNIP, and caspase-1 protein expression was detected using western blotting. Quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction was used to detect IL-1β, IL-18, and caspase-1 gene expression. Intracellular shuttling of TXNIP was assessed by immunofluorescent staining with MitoTracker Red. Increased production of ROS and expression of IL-1β, IL-18, and caspase-1 genes and proteins were observed in U937 and THP-1 cells incubated with fructose and were effectively inhibited by quercetin and ascorbic acid. Intracellular shuttling of TXNIP from the nucleus into the mitochondria was detected under stimulation with fructose, which was also attenuated by antioxidants quercetin and ascorbic acid but not butylated hydroxyanisole. Treatment of macrophages with fructose promoted the association between TXNIP and NLRP3 in the cytosol, sequentially resulting in the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. This study revealed that intracellular TXNIP protein is a critical regulator of activation of the fructose-induced NLRP3 inflammasome, which can be effectively blocked by the antioxidants quercetin and ascorbic acid.

Keywords: NLRP3; TXNIP; antioxidant; fructose; interleukin-1β; macrophages.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line
  • Fructose
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport / drug effects
  • Quercetin / pharmacology*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism


  • Antioxidants
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Inflammasomes
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • TXNIP protein, human
  • Fructose
  • Quercetin
  • Ascorbic Acid