Lactate dehydrogenase A-dependent aerobic glycolysis promotes natural killer cell anti-viral and anti-tumor function

Cell Rep. 2021 Jun 1;35(9):109210. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2021.109210.


Natural killer (NK) cells are cytotoxic lymphocytes capable of rapid cytotoxicity, cytokine secretion, and clonal expansion. To sustain such energetically demanding processes, NK cells must increase their metabolic capacity upon activation. However, little is known about the metabolic requirements specific to NK cells in vivo. To gain greater insight, we investigated the role of aerobic glycolysis in NK cell function and demonstrate that their glycolytic rate increases rapidly following viral infection and inflammation, prior to that of CD8+ T cells. NK cell-specific deletion of lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) reveals that activated NK cells rely on this enzyme for both effector function and clonal proliferation, with the latter being shared with T cells. As a result, LDHA-deficient NK cells are defective in their anti-viral and anti-tumor protection. These findings suggest that aerobic glycolysis is a hallmark of NK cell activation that is key to their function.

Keywords: B16-F10; CD8(+) T cells; Ly49H; MCMV; clonal proliferation; glycolysis; lactate dehydrogenase A; metabolism; natural killer cells; tumor surveillance.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aerobiosis
  • Animals
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Clone Cells
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / immunology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / pathology
  • Cytomegalovirus Infections / virology
  • Glycolysis*
  • Homeostasis
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Lactate Dehydrogenase 5 / metabolism*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muromegalovirus / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Up-Regulation


  • Lactate Dehydrogenase 5