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Mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells are a well-characterized innate-like T cell population abundant in the human liver, peripheral tissues and blood. MAIT cells serve in the first line of defense against infections, through engagement of their T cell receptor, which recognizes microbial metabolites presented on MR1, and through cytokine-mediated triggering. Typically, they show a quiescent memory phenotype but can undergo rapid upregulation of effector functions including cytolysis upon stimulation. T cells profoundly change their cellular metabolism during their maturation and activation. We sought to determine how MAIT cell metabolism may facilitate both the long-term memory phase in tissue and the transition to rapid effector function. Here, we show, by flow cytometric metabolism assays and extracellular flux analysis that, despite an effector-memory profile, human MAIT cells are metabolically quiescent in a resting state comparable to naïve and central memory T cells. Upon stimulation, they rapidly increase uptake of glucose and show a concomitant upregulation of the effector molecules notably granzyme B, which is impaired by inhibition of glycolysis with 2-deoxyglucose. These findings suggest that MAIT cells share some metabolic characteristics of both resting and effector T cell subsets, with a rapid transition upon triggering. Metabolic programming of this cell type may be of interest in understanding and modulating their function in infectious diseases and cancer.

Original publication




Journal article


Immunol Cell Biol

Publication Date





666 - 674


MAIT cells, T cells, metabolism, mucosal immunology, Glucose, Granzymes, Humans, Lymphocyte Activation, Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells, Up-Regulation