Cellular size as a means of tracking mTOR activity and cell fate of CD4+ T cells upon antigen recognition

PLoS One. 2015 Apr 7;10(4):e0121710. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0121710. eCollection 2015.


mTOR is a central integrator of metabolic and immunological stimuli, dictating immune cell activation, proliferation and differentiation. In this study, we demonstrate that within a clonal population of activated T cells, there exist both mTORhi and mTORlo cells exhibiting highly divergent metabolic and immunologic functions. By taking advantage of the role of mTOR activation in controlling cellular size, we demonstrate that upon antigen recognition, mTORhi CD4+ T cells are destined to become highly glycolytic effector cells. Conversely, mTORlo T cells preferentially develop into long-lived cells that express high levels of Bcl-2, CD25, and CD62L. Furthermore, mTORlo T cells have a greater propensity to differentiate into suppressive Foxp3+ T regulatory cells, and this paradigm was also observed in human CD4+ T cells. Overall, these studies provide the opportunity to track the development of effector and memory T cells from naïve precursors, as well as facilitate the interrogation of immunologic and metabolic programs that inform these fates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens / immunology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • CD4-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • Cell Size*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / immunology
  • L-Selectin / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / immunology
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases / immunology*


  • Antigens
  • BCL2 protein, human
  • IL2RA protein, human
  • Il2ra protein, mouse
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Bcl2 protein, mouse
  • L-Selectin
  • MTOR protein, human
  • mTOR protein, mouse
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases