Metabolism of T Lymphocytes in Health and Disease

Int Rev Cell Mol Biol. 2019;342:95-148. doi: 10.1016/bs.ircmb.2018.06.002. Epub 2018 Jul 18.


Adaptive immune responses that occur in infection, cancer, and autoimmune as well as allergic diseases involve the participation of T cells. T cells travel throughout the body searching for antigens, which are recognized via the major histocompatibility complexes. In the healthy organism, these T cells maintain metabolic quiescence until they encounter a potentially cognate antigen. Once activated, e.g., during an infection or tissue damage, T cells switch their metabolic program to gain energy and building blocks to maintain cellular homeostasis and to fulfill their specific immune functions involving clonal expansion and/or differentiation into effector and memory T cells to ultimately ensure host survival. Thus, differences in metabolism in healthy and pathogenic T cells provide an explanation for dysfunctionality of T-cell responses in metabolic disorders, autoimmunity, and cancer. Here, we summarize current knowledge on T-cell metabolism during the maintenance of homeostasis, activation, and differentiation as well as over the course of time that memory is generated in health and in diseased states such as autoimmunity and cancer.

Keywords: Autoimmunity; Cancer; T cells; immunometabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*