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Nutrition. 1997 Jul-Aug;13(7-8):646-51.

Glutamine requirement of proliferating T lymphocytes.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, University of Oxford, United Kingdom.


Glutamine is required for lymphocyte proliferation but the site of glutamine action is not yet known. In this study, the effect of glutamine on key events that occur during lymphocyte activation [interleukin-2 (IL-2) production, IL-2 use, IL-2 receptor expression, transferrin receptor expression] was investigated. Rat or mouse spleen lymphocytes were cultured in the presence of the T-cell mitogen concanavalin A (Con A) and various concentrations of glutamine. There was a trend (not significant) for the ratio of CD4+:CD8+ spleen lymphocytes to increase (from 1.9 to 2.6) as the concentration of glutamine in culture medium increased from 0 to 2 mmol/L. As the concentration of glutamine increased, there was an increase in the proportion of cells expressing the IL-2 receptor (from 30 to 45%) and the transferrin receptor (from 34% to 55%). As the concentration of glutamine increased there was a 2.7-fold increase in the concentration of IL-2 in the culture medium. The IL-2 concentration was decreased when an IL-2 receptor-blocking antibody was included in the culture medium; the IL-2 concentrations measured were taken to indicate the initial Con A-stimulated production of IL-2. In these conditions, the IL-2 concentration in the medium increased 39-fold as the glutamine concentration increased. The use of IL-2 by an IL-2-dependent cell line was dependent on the glutamine concentration in the culture medium. Thus, all four components of lymphocyte activation investigated (IL-2 production, IL-2 use, IL-2 receptor expression, transferrin receptor expression) were dependent on the concentration of glutamine present in the culture medium. Thus, glutamine might provide an early signal in the lymphocyte activation process.

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