Rapidly proliferating cells switch from oxidative phosphorylation to aerobic glycolysis plus glutaminolysis, markedly increasing glucose and glutamine catabolism. Although Otto Warburg first described aerobic glycolysis in cancer cells >90 years ago, the primary purpose of this metabolic switch remains controversial. The hexosamine biosynthetic pathway requires glucose and glutamine for de novo synthesis of UDP-GlcNAc, a sugar-nucleotide that inhibits receptor endocytosis and signaling by promoting N-acetylglucosamine branching of Asn (N)-linked glycans. Here we report that aerobic glycolysis and glutaminolysis co-operatively reduce UDP-GlcNAc biosynthesis and N-glycan branching in mouse T cell blasts by starving the hexosamine pathway of glucose and glutamine. This drives growth and pro-inflammatory TH17 over anti-inflammatory induced T regulatory (iTreg) differentiation, the latter by promoting endocytic loss of IL-2 receptor-α (CD25). Thus, a primary function of aerobic glycolysis and glutaminolysis is to co-operatively limit metabolite supply to N-glycan biosynthesis, an activity with widespread implications for autoimmunity and cancer.


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