Direct antioxidant properties of methotrexate: Inhibition of malondialdehyde-acetaldehyde-protein adduct formation and superoxide scavenging

Matthew C Zimmerman, Dahn L Clemens, Michael J. Duryee, Cleofes Sarmiento, Andrew Chiou, Carlos D. Hunter, Jun Tian, Lynell Warren Klassen, James Robert O'Dell, Geoffrey Milton Thiele, Ted R Mikuls, Daniel R Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Methotrexate (MTX) is an immunosuppressant commonly used for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. Recent observations have shown that patients treated with MTX also exhibit a reduced risk for the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Although MTX reduces systemic inflammation and tissue damage, the mechanisms by which MTX exerts these beneficial effects are not entirely known. We have previously demonstrated that protein adducts formed by the interaction of malondialdehyde (MDA) and acetaldehyde (AA), known as MAA-protein adducts, are present in diseased tissues of individuals with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or CVD. In previously reported studies, MAA-adducts were shown to be highly immunogenic, supporting the concept that MAA-adducts not only serve as markers of oxidative stress but may have a direct role in the pathogenesis of inflammatory diseases. Because MAA-adducts are commonly detected in diseased tissues and are proposed to mitigate disease progression in both RA and CVD, we tested the hypothesis that MTX inhibits the generation of MAA-protein adducts by scavenging reactive oxygen species. Using a cell free system, we found that MTX reduces MAA-adduct formation by approximately 6-fold, and scavenges free radicals produced during MAA-adduct formation. Further investigation revealed that MTX directly scavenges superoxide, but not hydrogen peroxide. Additionally, using the Nrf2/ARE luciferase reporter cell line, which responds to intracellular redox changes, we observed that MTX inhibits the activation of Nrf2 in cells treated with MDA and AA. These studies define previously unrecognized mechanisms by which MTX can reduce inflammation and subsequent tissue damage, namely, scavenging free radicals, reducing oxidative stress, and inhibiting MAA-adduct formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)588-593
Number of pages6
JournalRedox Biology
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Electron Paramagnetic Resonance (EPR) Spectroscopy
  • Malondialdehyde-Acetaldehyde (MAA) Adducts
  • Methotrexate
  • Superoxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organic Chemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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