Metabolic changes in activated T cells: an NMR study of human peripheral blood lymphocytes

Magn Reson Med. 1993 Mar;29(3):317-26. doi: 10.1002/mrm.1910290307.


Using NMR spectroscopy, we studied purified, human T lymphocytes in a serum-free medium. Purified cells were entrapped inside agarose beads and induced to proliferate by the mitogens phorbol-12-myristate-13-acetate and ionomycin. T lymphocytes in standard culture and inside agarose beads exhibit comparable viability, and similar extent and kinetics of DNA synthesis and interleukin-2 secretion. 31P-NMR revealed decreased phosphomonoester and increased phosphodiester content in cells stimulated for two days or longer. 13C-glucose utilization and 13C-lactate production rates showed that 85% of the utilized glucose was converted to lactate. 1H-NMR spectra of the perfusing media indicated that lactate was also produced from substrates other than glucose or glycogen. Glucose accounted for 25% of the lactate produced by quiescent cells, and for 67% of lactate production by stimulated cells. Glycolysis was enhanced 6-fold within the first 2 hours following stimulation, and 15-fold by 48 or 96 h. Aerobic lactate production was increased 3-fold by 48 h, with only a minor enhancement during the first 12 h of stimulation. Our results indicate a shift from mostly aerobic to mostly anaerobic lactate production in T lymphocytes within the first 90 min of the G0 to G1 transition during cell cycle progression.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Carbon
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Survival
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Ethanolamines / metabolism
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Glutamates / biosynthesis
  • Glycogen / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Lactates / biosynthesis
  • Lymphocyte Activation*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy*
  • Phosphates / metabolism
  • Phosphorus / metabolism
  • Phosphorylcholine / metabolism
  • Pyruvates / metabolism
  • Sepharose
  • T-Lymphocytes / metabolism*


  • Ethanolamines
  • Glutamates
  • Interleukin-2
  • Lactates
  • Phosphates
  • Pyruvates
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • Phosphorus
  • Carbon
  • phosphorylethanolamine
  • Hydrogen
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • Glycogen
  • DNA
  • Sepharose
  • Glucose