Metabolic but not transcriptional regulation by PKM2 is important for natural killer cell responses

Elife. 2020 Aug 19;9:e59166. doi: 10.7554/eLife.59166.


Natural Killer (NK) cells have an important role in immune responses to viruses and tumours. Integrating changes in signal transduction pathways and cellular metabolism is essential for effective NK cells responses. The glycolytic enzyme Pyruvate Kinase Muscle 2 (PKM2) has described roles in regulating glycolytic flux and signal transduction, particularly gene transcription. While PKM2 expression is robustly induced in activated NK cells, mice lacking PKM2 in NK cells showed no defect in NK cell metabolism, transcription or antiviral responses to MCMV infection. NK cell metabolism was maintained due to compensatory PKM1 expression in PKM2-null NK cells. To further investigate the role of PKM2, we used TEPP-46, which increases PKM2 catalytic activity while inhibiting any PKM2 signalling functions. NK cells activated with TEPP-46 had reduced effector function due to TEPP-46-induced increases in oxidative stress. Overall, PKM2-regulated glycolytic metabolism and redox status, not transcriptional control, facilitate optimal NK cells responses.

Keywords: cell biology; immunology; inflammation; metabolism; mouse; nk cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / genetics
  • Glycolysis* / drug effects
  • Glycolysis* / genetics
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Pyridazines / pharmacology
  • Pyrroles / pharmacology
  • Pyruvate Kinase* / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Pyruvate Kinase* / genetics
  • Pyruvate Kinase* / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction


  • ML-265
  • Pyridazines
  • Pyrroles
  • Pkm protein, mouse
  • Pyruvate Kinase