T lymphocytes are tasked with ensuring host defense against a diverse array of pathogens. They must also maintain tolerance to self-antigens to avoid autoimmunity and allergic disease. To achieve these disparate tasks, the immune system relies on a complex system of T cell proliferation, differentiation and lineage commitment. As such, understanding the fundamental mechanisms that intrinsically regulate the fate and function of an individual T cell remain important questions in immunobiology. Accumulating evidence indicates that metabolism is an important intrinsic regulator of lymphocyte function and adaptive immunity. Perturbations in the metabolic state of lymphocytes can alter T effector/helper cell function, memory T cell generation and self-tolerance. Early studies on human lymphocytes demonstrated that mitogenic signaling results in a rapid increase in de novo cholesterol and fatty acid biosynthesis. The lipid biosynthetic program precedes DNA synthesis and appears to be essential for efficient lymphocyte growth. Importantly, inhibition of the lipogenic program decreases DNA synthesis and proliferative capacity of activated lymphocytes. The molecular mechanisms underlying these striking observations have remained undefined to date. In this application, we test the hypothesis that the Sterol Response Element Binding Proteins (SREBP1 and 2), key transcriptional regulators of lipid biosynthesis and homeostasis, play a critical role in linking antigen receptor signaling with lipid metabolism, cell cycle progression and T cell fate/function.
Our aims are: 1) To define the signaling pathways regulating SREBP activity and de novo lipogenesis downstream of the antigen receptor;2) To test the hypothesis that SREBP signaling regulates cell cycle progression in activated T cells;and 3) To test the hypothesis that SREBP regulates CD8 T cell responses and immunity. The proposed studies examine a very poorly understood and potentially important aspect of lymphocyte biology. It is our expectation that these studies will increase our understanding of the crosstalk between metabolism and adaptive immunity. These studies will provide a foundation for better understanding the relationship between lipid metabolism, proliferation and differentiation in rapidly dividing hematopoietic and immune cells.

Public Health Relevance

An important goal of immunology is elucidating the mechanisms that regulate antigen-specific immunity and autoimmunity. The experiments outlined in this proposal integrate our understanding of T cell immunobiology with current ideas regarding molecular lipid metabolism. These studies will define the relative importance of transcriptional regulation of lipid metabolism on host defense and self-tolerance, as well as elucidate the signaling pathways downstream of the antigen receptor that coordinate the lipogenic program of lymphocytes. Moreover, these studies will provide a foundation for better understanding the potential influence of lipid metabolic programs on other rapidly proliferating normal and neoplastic tissue. Given that endogenous lipids can be altered in a number of human diseases, such as dyslipidemia and atherosclerosis, our results raise the interesting possibility that molecular metabolism may impact acquired immune responses in human metabolic diseases such as dyslipidemia, obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Cellular and Molecular Immunology - A Study Section (CMIA)
Program Officer
Lapham, Cheryl K
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California Los Angeles
Schools of Medicine
Los Angeles
United States
Zip Code
Argus, Joseph P; Yu, Amy K; Wang, Eric S et al. (2017) An optimized method for measuring fatty acids and cholesterol in stable isotope-labeled cells. J Lipid Res 58:460-468
Cunningham, Cameron R; Champhekar, Ameya; Tullius, Michael V et al. (2016) Type I and Type II Interferon Coordinately Regulate Suppressive Dendritic Cell Fate and Function during Viral Persistence. PLoS Pathog 12:e1005356
Ito, Ayaka; Hong, Cynthia; Oka, Kazuhiro et al. (2016) Cholesterol Accumulation in CD11c+ Immune Cells Is a Causal and Targetable Factor in Autoimmune Disease. Immunity 45:1311-1326
Gholkar, Ankur A; Cheung, Keith; Williams, Kevin J et al. (2016) Fatostatin Inhibits Cancer Cell Proliferation by Affecting Mitotic Microtubule Spindle Assembly and Cell Division. J Biol Chem 291:17001-8
York, Autumn G; Williams, Kevin J; Argus, Joseph P et al. (2015) Limiting Cholesterol Biosynthetic Flux Spontaneously Engages Type I IFN Signaling. Cell 163:1716-29
Mercer, Jacob L; Argus, Joseph P; Crabtree, Donna M et al. (2015) Modulation of PICALM Levels Perturbs Cellular Cholesterol Homeostasis. PLoS One 10:e0129776
Kidani, Yoko; Bensinger, Steven J (2014) Lipids rule: resetting lipid metabolism restores T cell function in systemic lupus erythematosus. J Clin Invest 124:482-5
Kidani, Yoko; Elsaesser, Heidi; Hock, M Benjamin et al. (2013) Sterol regulatory element-binding proteins are essential for the metabolic programming of effector T cells and adaptive immunity. Nat Immunol 14:489-99
Williams, Kevin J; Argus, Joseph P; Zhu, Yue et al. (2013) An essential requirement for the SCAP/SREBP signaling axis to protect cancer cells from lipotoxicity. Cancer Res 73:2850-62
York, Autumn G; Bensinger, Steven J (2013) Subverting sterols: rerouting an oxysterol-signaling pathway to promote tumor growth. J Exp Med 210:1653-6

Showing the most recent 10 out of 11 publications