Public Health Resources


Date of this Version



Menk et al., 2018, Cell Reports 22, 1509–1521


U.S. government work


To fulfill bioenergetic demands of activation, T cells perform aerobic glycolysis, a process common to highly proliferative cells in which glucose is fermented into lactate rather than oxidized in mitochondria. However, the signaling events that initiate aerobic glycolysis in T cells remain unclear. We show T cell activation rapidly induces glycolysis independent of transcription, translation, CD28, and Akt and not involving increased glucose uptake or activity of glycolytic enzymes. Rather, TCR signaling promotes activation of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDHK1), inhibiting mitochondrial import of pyruvate and facilitating breakdown into lactate. Inhibition of PDHK1 reveals this switch is required acutely for cytokine synthesis but dispensable for cytotoxicity. Functionally, cytokine synthesis is modulated via lactate dehydrogenase, which represses cytokine mRNA translation when aerobic glycolysis is disengaged. Our data provide mechanistic insight to metabolic contribution to effector T cell function and suggest that T cell function may be finely tuned through modulation of glycolytic activity. Menk et al. show rapid induction of aerobic glycolysis after activation of effector T cells that is required for acute cytokine production. These data provide mechanistic insight into the regulation of T cell function through nutrient availability.