Energy to Burn

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Science  10 Feb 2012:
Vol. 335, Issue 6069, pp. 636
DOI: 10.1126/science.335.6069.636-a
CREDIT: IMMUNITY 36, 68 (2012)

The life of a T cell can be very demanding—at least as far as metabolism is concerned. An encounter with a pathogen calls for rapid proliferation and, for the subset of cells that go on to become memory cells, long-term survival. How do cells manage such metabolic demands? Upon activation, T cells switch to glycolysis. Largely quiescent memory cells, however, use oxidative phosphorylation but do have the extra challenge of being able to respond under conditions of increased work or stress. van der Windt et al. now show that mouse CD8+ memory T cells have substantial mitochondrial spare respiratory capacity compared to naïve or effector T cells, which helps them keep up with their energetic demands. The cytokine interleukin-15 (IL-15), which is critical for memory T cell differentiation, was required for this elevated spare respiratory capacity. IL-15 promoted mitochondrial biogenesis and expression of a metabolic enzyme necessary for fatty acid oxidation. Thus, signals encountered along the way to becoming a memory T cell also endow these cells with the ability to respond to future energetic demands.

Immunity 36, 68 (2012).

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