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Immunol Lett. 2010 Jun 15;131(1):97-105. doi: 10.1016/j.imlet.2010.02.008. Epub 2010 Mar 3.

Effects of hypoxia and/or lack of glucose on cellular energy metabolism and cytokine production in stimulated human CD4+ T lymphocytes.

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Department of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Charité University Hospital, Charitéplatz 1, Berlin, Germany.


Oxidative phosphorylation and/or glycolysis provide energy, mainly in the form of ATP, which ensures proper functioning of immune cells such as CD4(+) T lymphocytes. However, the main substrates, namely oxygen and glucose, are known to remain for a relatively short time in the inflamed tissue and in other clinical situations where immune cells need to function properly. Therefore, we examined the effect of hypoxia and/or lack of glucose on cellular energy metabolism and on cytokine secretion in stimulated human CD4(+) T lymphocytes. Human CD4(+) T cells were MACS-isolated using peripheral blood obtained from healthy donors. Stimulated cells were incubated in medium with or without glucose for 6h in a sealed chamber which led to cumulative hypoxia. During this incubation period, (i) oxygen saturation was measured continuously using a Clark-type electrode, and (ii) samples were taken at different time points in order to quantify for each the viability of cells, intracellular reactive oxygen species (iROS), ATP levels, glycolytic enzyme activity, mRNA expression of hexokinase-1 and superoxide dismutase-1, and concentrations of several different cytokines. Stimulated CD4(+) T cells which were incubated under normoxic conditions served as controls. Under hypoxic conditions, lack of glucose exerted a biphasic effect on cellular oxygen consumption: initially higher but later lower respiration rates were measured when compared to conditions where glucose was available. Lack of glucose strongly increased the number of dead cells and the formation of iROS under normoxia but not under hypoxia. Under both normoxic and hypoxic conditions, intracellular ATP levels remained almost unchanged during the incubation period if glucose was present, but decreased significantly in the absence of glucose, despite the enhanced glycolytic enzyme activity. Measurements of stimulated cytokine production demonstrated (i) that cumulative hypoxia stimulates especially the secretion of IL-1beta, IL-10 and IL-8, and (ii) that lack of glucose results in lower cytokine concentrations. We demonstrate that CD4(+) T cells are highly adaptive in bioenergetic terms which ensure their proper function under extreme conditions of glucose and/or oxygen availability as found under physiological and pathophysiological conditions. Hypoxia seems to facilitate inflammatory reactions and angiogenesis.

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