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Blood. 2013 Oct 31;122(18):3230-7. doi: 10.1182/blood-2013-04-495515. Epub 2013 Sep 17.

Effector T cells require fatty acid metabolism during murine graft-versus-host disease.

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Department of Pediatrics.


Activated T cells require increased energy to proliferate and mediate effector functions, but the metabolic changes that occur in T cells following stimulation in vivo are poorly understood, particularly in the context of inflammation. We have previously shown that T cells activated during graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) primarily rely on oxidative phosphorylation to synthesize adenosine 5'-triphosphate. Here, we demonstrate that alloreactive effector T cells (Teff) use fatty acids (FAs) as a fuel source to support their in vivo activation. Alloreactive T cells increased FA transport, elevated levels of FA oxidation enzymes, up-regulated transcriptional coactivators to drive oxidative metabolism, and increased their rates of FA oxidation. Importantly, increases in FA transport and up-regulation of FA oxidation machinery occurred specifically in T cells during GVHD and were not seen in Teff following acute activation. Pharmacological blockade of FA oxidation decreased the survival of alloreactive T cells but did not influence the survival of T cells during normal immune reconstitution. These studies suggest that pathways controlling FA metabolism might serve as therapeutic targets to treat GVHD and other T-cell-mediated immune diseases.

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