Fatty acid metabolism in the regulation of T cell function

Trends Immunol. 2015 Feb;36(2):81-91. doi: 10.1016/j.it.2014.12.005. Epub 2015 Jan 12.


The specific regulation of cellular metabolic processes is of major importance for directing immune cell differentiation and function. We review recent evidence indicating that changes in basic cellular lipid metabolism have critical effects on T cell proliferation and cell fate decisions. While induction of de novo fatty acid (FA) synthesis is essential for activation-induced proliferation and differentiation of effector T cells, FA catabolism via β-oxidation is important for the development of CD8(+) T cell memory as well as for the differentiation of CD4(+) regulatory T cells. We consider the influence of lipid metabolism and metabolic intermediates on the regulation of signaling and transcriptional pathways via post-translational modifications, and discuss how an improved understanding of FA metabolism may reveal strategies for manipulating immune responses towards therapeutic outcomes.

Keywords: ACC; AMPK; T cells; fatty acid oxidation; fatty acid synthesis; fatty acids; mTOR.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunologic Memory
  • Immunomodulation*
  • Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocyte Activation
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / metabolism
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids
  • Lipids
  • Sterol Regulatory Element Binding Proteins
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • AMP-Activated Protein Kinases