Metabolic Alterations Associated with Proliferation of Mitogen-Activated Lymphocytes and of Lymphoblastoid Cell Lines: Evaluation of Glucose and Glutamine Metabolism

K. Brand, W. Leibold, P. Luppa, C. Schoerner, A. Schulz

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In vitro resting, short-term mitogen stimulated, and proliferating rat thymocytes as well as established human T and B lymphoblastoid cell lines were compared in their capacity to metabolize glucose and glutamine as energy source. Furthermore, the pathways of glutamine metabolism in these cells were studied. Compared with resting thyrnocytes, glucose metabolism of proliferating thymocytes was 36-fold increased during the incubation; 92 % of the amount of glucose utilized was converted into trioses mainly lactate, whereas resting cells metabolized only 38 % to trioses. However, the latter oxidized 19 % of glucose to CO2, as opposed to 1.1 % by the proliferating cells. Rates of glucose uptake and degradation to products by the malignant T lymphoblastoid cell line (jurkat) were nearly identical with those observed with proliferating rat thyrnocytes, whereas the benign B lymphoblastoid cell lines (DHg-B-1 and LV-B-1) showed significantly higher rates of glucose metabolism. All three transformed lymphoblastoid cell lines, however, metabolized glucose almost completely to lactate as did the proliferating rat thymocytes. Lymphocytes are able to utilize glutamine with glutamate, aspartate and ammonia being the major end-products. A complete recovery of glutamine carbon in the products was obtained with all cells. Glutamine utilization by incubated proliferating rat thymocytes was 8-fold increased as compared to the resting cells. Again the human T lymphoblastoid cell line showed the same rates of glutamine uptake and conversion into products as did the proliferating rat thymocytes, whereas both B lymphoblastoid cell lines had about 2.5-fold enhanced rates as compared to the T cell line. The results indicate that during lymphocyte proliferation caused by mitogen stimulation as well as by permanent transformation into lymphoblastoid cell lines glucose metabolism is altered not only quantitatively but also qualitatively by changing from partly aerobic to almost complete anaerobic glucose breakdown. Glutamine has been found to be a suitable energy source for lymphocytes. About 75 % of the amount of glutamate derived from glutamine entered into the citric acid cycle via the aspartate aminotransferase, and the remaining 25% via the glutamate dehydrogenase reaction. The changes in metabolic rates observed in proliferating as well as in transformed or leukemic lymphocytes appear to be reliable parameters to characterize the state of lymphocyte activation or to evaluate the efficacy of lymphokines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-34
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1986
Externally publishedYes


  • Con A
  • DMSO
  • EBV
  • EpsteinBarr virus
  • PCS
  • T cell growth factor(s), a commercial preparation containing interleukin 2 was used.
  • TCGP
  • concanavalin A
  • dimethyl sulfoxide
  • fetal calf serum


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