Nature medicine

Notch controls the survival of memory CD4+ T cells by regulating glucose uptake.

PMID 25501905


CD4+ T cells differentiate into memory T cells that protect the host from subsequent infection. In contrast, autoreactive memory CD4+ T cells harm the body by persisting in the tissues. The underlying pathways controlling the maintenance of memory CD4+ T cells remain undefined. We show here that memory CD4+ T cell survival is impaired in the absence of the Notch signaling protein known as recombination signal binding protein for immunoglobulin κ J region (Rbpj). Treatment of mice with a Notch inhibitor reduced memory CD4+ T cell numbers and prevented the recurrent induction of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis. Rbpj-deficient CD4+ memory T cells exhibit reduced glucose uptake due to impaired AKT phosphorylation, resulting in low Glut1 expression. Treating mice with pyruvic acid, which bypasses glucose uptake and supplies the metabolite downstream of glucose uptake, inhibited the decrease of autoimmune memory CD4+ T cells in the absence of Notch signaling, suggesting memory CD4+ T cell survival relies on glucose metabolism. Together, these data define a central role for Notch signaling in maintaining memory CD4+ T cells through the regulation of glucose uptake.