Signals of pseudo-starvation unveil the amino acid transporter SLC7A11 as key determinant in the control of Treg cell proliferative potential

Claudio Procaccini, Silvia Garavelli, Fortunata Carbone, Dario Di Silvestre, Claudia La Rocca, Dario Greco, Alessandra Colamatteo, Maria Teresa Lepore, Claudia Russo, Giusy De Rosa, Deriggio Faicchia, Francesco Prattichizzo, Sarah Grossi, Paola Campomenosi, Fabio Buttari, Pierluigi Mauri, Antonio Uccelli, Marco Salvetti, Vincenzo Brescia Morra, Danila VellaMario Galgani, Maria Mottola, Bruno Zuccarelli, Roberta Lanzillo, Giorgia Teresa Maniscalco, Diego Centonze, Paola de Candia, Giuseppe Matarese

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


    Human CD4+CD25hiFOXP3+ regulatory T (Treg) cells are key players in the control of immunological self-tolerance and homeostasis. Here, we report that signals of pseudo-starvation reversed human Treg cell in vitro anergy through an integrated transcriptional response, pertaining to proliferation, metabolism, and transmembrane solute carrier transport. At the molecular level, the Treg cell proliferative response was dependent on the induction of the cystine/glutamate antiporter solute carrier (SLC)7A11, whose expression was controlled by the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NRF2). SLC7A11 induction in Treg cells was impaired in subjects with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), an autoimmune disorder associated with reduced Treg cell proliferative capacity. Treatment of RRMS subjects with dimethyl fumarate (DMF) rescued SLC7A11 induction and fully recovered Treg cell expansion. These results suggest a previously unrecognized mechanism that may account for the progressive loss of Treg cells in autoimmunity and unveil SLC7A11 as major target for the rescue of Treg cell proliferation.

    Original languageEnglish
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 2021
    Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • autoimmunity
    • dimethyl fumarate
    • leptin
    • metabolism
    • multiple sclerosis
    • proliferation
    • SLC7A11
    • starvation
    • Treg cells
    • xCT

    Publication forum classification

    • Publication forum level 3

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Immunology and Allergy
    • Immunology
    • Infectious Diseases


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