SGLT2 inhibition modulates NLRP3 inflammasome activity via ketones and insulin in diabetes with cardiovascular disease

Nat Commun. 2020 May 1;11(1):2127. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15983-6.


Sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 (SGLT2) inhibitors reduce cardiovascular events in humans with type 2 diabetes (T2D); however, the underlying mechanism remains unclear. Activation of the NLR family, pyrin domain-containing 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome and subsequent interleukin (IL)-1β release induces atherosclerosis and heart failure. Here we show the effect of SGLT2 inhibitor empagliflozin on NLRP3 inflammasome activity. Patients with T2D and high cardiovascular risk receive SGLT2 inhibitor or sulfonylurea for 30 days, with NLRP3 inflammasome activation analyzed in macrophages. While the SGLT2 inhibitor's glucose-lowering capacity is similar to sulfonylurea, it shows a greater reduction in IL-1β secretion compared to sulfonylurea accompanied by increased serum β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and decreased serum insulin. Ex vivo experiments with macrophages verify the inhibitory effects of high BHB and low insulin levels on NLRP3 inflammasome activation. In conclusion, SGLT2 inhibitor attenuates NLRP3 inflammasome activation, which might help to explain its cardioprotective effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Glucose / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Inflammasomes / drug effects*
  • Inflammasomes / metabolism*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Ketones / pharmacology
  • Macrophages / drug effects
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein / metabolism*
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds / pharmacology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism


  • Inflammasomes
  • Insulin
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Ketones
  • NLR Family, Pyrin Domain-Containing 3 Protein
  • Sodium-Glucose Transporter 2 Inhibitors
  • Sulfonylurea Compounds
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Glucose