Glutamine metabolism affects T cell signaling and function -- ScienceDailyIn the current work, they turned their attention to another major fuel: glutamine, which has primarily been studied in the context of cancer cell metabolism. Several companies are developing drugs that inhibit glutamine metabolism to reduce cancer cell growth and proliferation. The investigators expected that inhibiting glutamine metabolism -- like blocking glucose metabolism -- would prevent T cell activation and function. They used a drug that inhibits the first step in glutamine metabolism, an enzyme called glutaminase. They also studied mice with targeted genetic deletion of the glutaminase gene. The researchers were surprised to find that certain T cells -- those that mediate antiviral and anticancer responses -- performed better in the absence of glutaminase activity. Other T cells involved in inflammatory and autoimmune diseases performed worse. "We were intrigued that one metabolic perturbation could have a very different impact on the function of subsets of T cells," said Marc Johnson, a graduate student who led the studies.