Int J Biol Sci 2015; 11(7):726-736. doi:10.7150/ijbs.12009 This issue

Research Paper

Ionizing Radiation Impairs T Cell Activation by Affecting Metabolic Reprogramming

Heng-Hong Li1, 2✉, Yi-wen Wang1, Renxiang Chen1, 2, Bin Zhou3, Jonathan D. Ashwell4, Albert J. Fornace Jr.1,3,5

1. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University, Washington, DC 20057, USA
2. Institute of Radiation Medicine, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College, Tianjin 300192, China
3. Department of Oncology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, DC 20057, USA
4. Laboratory of Immune Cell Biology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
5. Center of Excellence in Genomic Medicine Research (CEGMR), King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah 22254, Saudi Arabia

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) License. See for full terms and conditions.
Li HH, Wang Yw, Chen R, Zhou B, Ashwell JD, Fornace AJ Jr.. Ionizing Radiation Impairs T Cell Activation by Affecting Metabolic Reprogramming. Int J Biol Sci 2015; 11(7):726-736. doi:10.7150/ijbs.12009. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Ionizing radiation has a variety of acute and long-lasting adverse effects on the immune system. Whereas measureable effects of radiation on immune cell cytotoxicity and population change have been well studied in human and animal models, little is known about the functional alterations of the surviving immune cells after ionizing radiation. The objective of this study was to delineate the effects of radiation on T cell function by studying the alterations of T cell receptor activation and metabolic changes in activated T cells isolated from previously irradiated animals. Using a global metabolomics profiling approach, for the first time we demonstrate that ionizing radiation impairs metabolic reprogramming of T cell activation, which leads to substantial decreases in the efficiency of key metabolic processes required for activation, such as glucose uptake, glycolysis, and energy metabolism. In-depth understanding of how radiation impacts T cell function highlighting modulation of metabolism during activation is not only a novel approach to investigate the pivotal processes in the shift of T cell homeostasis after radiation, it also may lead to new targets for therapeutic manipulation in the combination of radiotherapy and immune therapy. Given that appreciable effects were observed with as low as 10 cGy, our results also have implications for low dose environmental exposures.

Keywords: metabolic reprogramming, metabolomics, mass spectrometry, UPLC-QTOF, ionizing radiation, TCR activation