Leading the way to a cure


CD4 T cell metabolism in lupus: characterization and target identification

Morel, Laurence, PhD

University of Florida

Previously Dr. Morel and her team discovered that T cells use of the metabolic substrate (for example, sugars floating in the blood) is impaired in a mouse model of lupus. This impairment accompanies the production of T cells of an inflammatory type that, in turn, drives the disease process. Specifically, the research focuses on the Esrrg gene, which has a role in cellular metabolism. The level of expression of Esrrg in T cells regulates how they use the metabolic substrate as well as their inflammatory potential. 

Faulty regulation of T cell metabolism might play an important role in the development of lupus. So, altering T cell metabolism might be an effective lupus therapy. Furthermore, this goal could be achieved by using a set of metabolism inhibitors that have already been shown to be safe for humans. 

Dr. Morel’s research will, first, use a mouse lupus model to investigate how Esrrg regulates CD4+ T cell metabolism and how this contributes to the development of disease. Second, can inhibition of glucose metabolism using well-known strategies prevent and reverse the illness in mice? Third, how is Esrrg regulation of T cell metabolism different in lupus patients than in healthy people? Strong preliminary results have already been achieved. 

What this study means for people with lupus: In this research, Dr. Morel hopes to discover a previously unknown way to regulate the T cell contribution to the development of lupus, so that medicines and biomarkers can be developed. 

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