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Immune-cell activation and functional plasticity are closely linked to metabolic reprogramming that is required to supply the energy and substrates for such dynamic transformations. During such processes, immune cells metabolize many kinds of molecules including nucleic acids, sugars and lipids, which is called immunometabolism. This review will mainly focus on amino acids and their derivatives among such metabolites and describe the functions of these molecules in the immune system. Although amino acids are essential for, and well known as, substrates for protein synthesis, they are also metabolized as energy sources and as substrates for functional catabolites. For example, glutamine is metabolized to produce energy through glutaminolysis and tryptophan is consumed to supply nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, whereas arginine is metabolized to produce nitric acid and polyamine by nitric oxide synthase and arginase, respectively. In addition, serine is catabolized to produce nucleotides and to induce methylation reactions. Furthermore, in addition to their intracellular functions, amino acids and their derivatives are secreted and have extracellular functions as immunotransmitters. Many amino acids and their derivatives have been classified as neurotransmitters and their functions are clear as transmitters between nerve cells, or between nerve cells and immune cells, functioning as immunotransmitters. Thus, this review will describe the intracellular and external functions of amino acid from the perspective of immunometabolism and immunotransmission. © The Japanese Society for Immunology. 2020. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail:


Michio Miyajima. Amino acids: key sources for immunometabolites and immunotransmitters. International immunology. 2020 Jun 26;32(7):435-446

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PMID: 32383454

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