Activated T cells produce reactive oxygen species (ROS), which trigger the antioxidative glutathione (GSH) response necessary to buffer rising ROS and prevent cellular damage. We report that GSH is essential for T cell effector functions through its regulation of metabolic activity. Conditional gene targeting of the catalytic subunit of glutamate cysteine ligase (Gclc)blocked GSH production specifically in murine T cells. Gclc-deficient T cells initially underwent normal activation but could not meet their increased energy and biosynthetic requirements. GSH deficiency compromised the activation of mammalian target of rapamycin-1 (mTOR) and expression of NFAT and Myc transcription factors, abrogating the energy utilization and Myc-dependent metabolic reprogramming that allows activated T cells to switch to glycolysis and glutaminolysis. In vivo, T-cell-specific ablation of murineGclcprevented autoimmune disease but blocked antiviral defense. The antioxidative GSH pathway thus plays an unexpected role in metabolic integration and reprogramming during inflammatory T cell responses.
Upon activation, T cells adapt their metabolism to meet their increased bioenergetic and biosynthetic needs. Activated T cells produce ROS, which trigger the antioxidative GSH response to prevent cellular damage. Mak et al. report that the GSH pathway plays an unexpected role in metabolic integration during inflammatory T cell responses.