BCAT1 controls metabolic reprogramming in activated human macrophages and is associated with inflammatory diseases

Nat Commun. 2017 Jul 12;8:16040. doi: 10.1038/ncomms16040.


Branched-chain aminotransferases (BCAT) are enzymes that initiate the catabolism of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), such as leucine, thereby providing macromolecule precursors; however, the function of BCATs in macrophages is unknown. Here we show that BCAT1 is the predominant BCAT isoform in human primary macrophages. We identify ERG240 as a leucine analogue that blocks BCAT1 activity. Selective inhibition of BCAT1 activity results in decreased oxygen consumption and glycolysis. This decrease is associated with reduced IRG1 levels and itaconate synthesis, suggesting involvement of BCAA catabolism through the IRG1/itaconate axis within the tricarboxylic acid cycle in activated macrophages. ERG240 suppresses production of IRG1 and itaconate in mice and contributes to a less proinflammatory transcriptome signature. Oral administration of ERG240 reduces the severity of collagen-induced arthritis in mice and crescentic glomerulonephritis in rats, in part by decreasing macrophage infiltration. These results establish a regulatory role for BCAT1 in macrophage function with therapeutic implications for inflammatory conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arthritis, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy
  • Citric Acid Cycle*
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Glomerulonephritis / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Hydro-Lyases / metabolism
  • Leucine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Leucine / pharmacology*
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / drug effects
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Rats
  • Succinates / metabolism
  • Transaminases / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Transaminases / metabolism*


  • Succinates
  • BCAT1 protein, human
  • Bcat1 protein, mouse
  • Transaminases
  • Hydro-Lyases
  • Irg1 protein, mouse
  • Leucine
  • itaconic acid