When naïve or memory T cells encounter foreign antigen along with proper co-stimulation they undergo rapid and extensive clonal expansion. In mammals, this type of proliferation is fairly unique to cells of the adaptive immune system and requires a considerable expenditure of energy and cellular resources. While research has often focused on the roles of cytokines, antigenic signals, and co-stimulation in guiding T cell responses, data indicate that, at a fundamental level, it is cellular metabolism that regulates T cell function and differentiation and therefore influences the final outcome of the adaptive immune response. This review will focus on some earlier fundamental observations regarding T cell bioenergetics and its role in regulating cellular function, as well as recent work that suggests that manipulating the immune response by targeting lymphocyte metabolism could prove useful in treatments against infection and cancer.
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