PI3K–Akt signaling controls PFKFB3 expression during human T-lymphocyte activation

  • Helga Simon-Molas
  • Claudia Arnedo-Pac
  • Pere Fontova
  • Anna Vidal-Alabró
  • Esther Castaño
  • Ana Rodríguez-García
  • Àurea Navarro-Sabaté
  • Núria Lloberas
  • Anna Manzano
  • Ramon Bartrons


Lymphocyte activation is associated with rapid increase of both the glycolytic activator fructose 2,6-bisphosphate (Fru-2,6-P2) and the enzyme responsible for its synthesis, 6-phosphofructo-2-kinase/fructose-2,6-bisphosphatase (PFK-2/FBPase-2). PFKFB3 gene, which encodes for the most abundant PFK-2 isoenzyme in proliferating tissues, has been found overexpressed during cell activation in several models, including immune cells. However, there is limited knowledge on the pathways underlying PFKFB3 regulation in human T-lymphocytes, and the role of this gene in human immune response. The aim of this work is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of PFKFB3 induction during human T-lymphocyte activation by mitotic agents. The results obtained showed PFKFB3 induction during human T-lymphocyte activation by mitogens such as phytohemagglutinin (PHA). PFKFB3 increase occurred concomitantly with GLUT-1, HK-II, and PCNA upregulation, showing that mitotic agents induce a metabolic reprograming process that is required for T-cell proliferation. PI3K–Akt pathway inhibitors, Akti-1/2 and LY294002, reduced PFKFB3 gene induction by PHA, as well as Fru-2,6-P2 and lactate production. Moreover, both inhibitors blocked activation and proliferation in response to PHA, showing the importance of PI3K/Akt signaling pathway in the antigen response of T-lymphocytes. These results provide a link between metabolism and T-cell antigen receptor signaling in human lymphocyte biology that can help to better understand the importance of modulating both pathways to target complex diseases involving the activation of the immune system.


PFKFB3 PI3K–Akt Mitogens Lymphocytes Glycolysis Metabolism 





7-Aminoactinomycin D


Activation-induced cell death


Carboxyfluorescein succinimidyl ester


Concanavalin A


Fetal bovine serum


Fructose 2,6-bisphosphate


Glucose transporter 1


Hypoxia-inducible factor




Interleukin-2 receptor alpha chain




Mean fluorescence intensity


Mammalian target of rapamycin


Mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1


Oxidative phosphorylation


Peripheral blood mononuclear cells


Proliferating cell nuclear antigen






6-Phosphofructo-2-Kinase/Fructose-2,6-Bisphosphatase 3




S6 ribosomal protein


T-cell antigen receptor



We are grateful to B. Torrejón from the Microscopy Unit of Centres Científics i Tecnològics of the Universitat de Barcelona (CCiT-UB) for excellent technical assistance and advice; A. M. Cosialls for technical advice in blood cells cultures; J. L. Rosa and F. Viñals for providing reagents; P. Giménez-Bonafé for English revision and E. Adanero for technical assistance.

Author contributions

RB and AM conceived and designed the experiments; HS, CA, PF, and AV performed the experiments; HS, CA, AM, PF, AV, and EC analyzed the data; NLL, AR, and AN critically commented and revised the work; and HS, RB, and AM wrote the manuscript.


This work was supported by Instituto de Salud Carlos III—FIS [PI13/0096] and FIS [PI17/00412]—and Fondo Europeo de Desarrollo Regional (FEDER), and by Astellas European Foundation Award (13th European Society of Transplantation). HS was recipient of a fellowship from Secretaria d’Universitats i Recerca del Departament d’Economia i Coneixement de la Generalitat de Catalunya and AR was recipient of a fellowship from the University of Barcelona.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

11010_2018_3325_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 4587 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departament de Ciències Fisiològiques, Facultat de Medicina i Ciències de la SalutUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  2. 2.Departament de NefrologiaHospital Universitari de Bellvitge, IDIBELLBarcelonaSpain
  3. 3.Centres Científics i TecnològicsUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain

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