Leucine Metabolism in T Cell Activation: mTOR Signaling and Beyond

Elitsa A. Ananieva, Jonathan Powell, Susan M. Hutson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


In connection with the increasing interest in metabolic regulation of the immune response, this review discusses current advances in understanding the role of leucine and leucine metabolism in T lymphocyte (T cell) activation. T cell activation during the development of an immune response depends on metabolic reprogramming to ensure that sufficient nutrients and energy are taken up by the highly proliferating T cells. Leucine has been described as an important essential amino acid and a nutrient signal that activates complex 1 of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTORC1), which is a critical regulator of T cell proliferation, differentiation, and function. The role of leucine in these processes is further discussed in relation to amino acid transporters, leucine-degrading enzymes, and other metabolites of leucine metabolism. A new model of T cell regulation by leucine is proposed and outlines a chain of events that leads to the activation of mTORC1 in T cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)798S-805S
JournalAdvances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • BCATc
  • immune function
  • KIC
  • leucine
  • mTORC1
  • T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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