T cell receptor (TCR) triggering by antigen results in metabolic reprogramming that, in turn, facilitates the exit of T cells from quiescence. The increased nutrient requirements of activated lymphocytes are met, in part, by upregulation of cell surface transporters and enhanced uptake of amino acids, fatty acids, and glucose from the environment. However, the role of intracellular pathways of amino acid biosynthesis in T cell activation is relatively unexplored. Asparagine is a nonessential amino acid that can be synthesized intracellularly through the glutamine-hydrolyzing enzyme asparagine synthetase (ASNS). We set out to define the requirements for uptake of extracellular asparagine and ASNS activity in CD8+ T cell activation. At early time points of activation in vitro, CD8+ T cells expressed little or no ASNS, and, as a consequence, viability and TCR-stimulated growth, activation, and metabolic reprogramming were substantially impaired under conditions of asparagine deprivation. At later time points (more than 24 hours of activation), TCR-induced mTOR-dependent signals resulted in ASNS upregulation that endowed CD8+ T cells with the capacity to function independently of extracellular asparagine. Thus, our data suggest that the coordinated upregulation of ASNS expression and uptake of extracellular asparagine is involved in optimal T cell effector responses.
Helen Carrasco Hope, Rebecca J. Brownlie, Christopher M. Fife, Lynette Steele, Mihaela Lorger, Robert J. Salmond