Distinct metabolic programs in activated T cells: opportunities for selective immunomodulation

Immunol Rev. 2012 Sep;249(1):104-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-065X.2012.01148.x.


For several decades, it has been known that T-cell activation in vitro leads to increased glycolytic metabolism that fuels proliferation and effector function. Recently, this simple model has been complicated by the observation that different T-cell subsets differentially regulate fundamental metabolic pathways under the control of distinct molecular regulators. Although the majority of these data have been generated in vitro, several recent studies have documented the metabolism of T cells activated in vivo. Here, we review the recent data surrounding the differential regulation of metabolism by distinct T-cell subsets in vitro and in vivo and discuss how differential metabolic regulation might facilitate T-cell function vis-à-vis proliferation, survival, and energy production. We further discuss the important therapeutic implications of differential metabolism across T-cell subsets and review recent successes in exploiting lymphocyte metabolism to treat immune-mediated diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Glycolysis
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation*
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Oxidative Phosphorylation
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism*


  • Reactive Oxygen Species