Lymphocyte proliferation modulated by glutamine: Involved in the endogenous redox reaction

W. K. Chang, K. D. Yang, Men Fang Shaio

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Article peer-review

68 Scopus citations


Decreased glutamine concentrations are found during catabolic stress and are related to susceptibility to infections. However, little is known about the mechanism of glutamine modulation of lymphocyte functions. Glutamine is not only an important energy source in mitochondria, but is also a precursor of glutamate, which is used for cellular glutathione (GSH) biosynthesis in lymphocytes. In this study, we investigated the effects of glutamine on the redox reaction during lymphocyte proliferation. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells, obtained from healthy adult volunteers, were cultured and stimulated by phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) in the presence of different glutamine concentrations. Cells were harvested and prepared for analysis of lymphocyte proliferation, cell cycle propagation, intracellular glutathione levels and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. We found that glutamine supplementation significantly enhanced PHA-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation and propagation of the cell cycle from the G1 to S and G2/M phases. Glutamine also enhanced production of both intracellular ROS and GSH levels in PHA-stimulated lymphocytes. Flow cytometric analysis by the mercury orange staining method showed that glutamine significantly enhanced intracellular non-protein thiols in PHA-stimulated CD4+, but not CD8+ lymphocyte subsets. Furthermore, intracellular GSH detected by monochlorobimane dye probe showed that glutamine enhanced GSH both in PHA- stimulated CD4+ and CD8+ lymphocyte subsets. Inadequate glutamine supplementation resulted in decreased lymphocyte proliferation in association with decreased levels of intracellular GSH. Addition of exogenous GSH significantly enhanced lymphocyte proliferation, whereas blockade of GSH synthesis enhanced ROS production and suppressed lymphocyte proliferation. These results suggest that the modulation of PHA-stimulated lymphocyte proliferation by glutamine is closely related to the maintenance of appropriate intracellular redox status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)482-488
Number of pages7
JournalClinical and Experimental Immunology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Cell cycle
  • Glutamine
  • Glutathione
  • Lymphocyte proliferation
  • Oxidative stress


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