Inosine is an alternative carbon supply that supports effector T cell proliferation and anti-tumor function under glucose restriction
T cells undergo a characteristic metabolic rewiring that fulfills the dramatically increased bioenergetic, biosynthetic, and redox demands following antigen stimulation. A robust adaptive immune system requires effector T cells to respond and adapt to fluctuations in environmental nutrient levels imposed by infectious and inflammatory sites in different tissues. Inevitably, such responsiveness and adaptation reflect metabolic plasticity, allowing T cells to elicit immune functions by using a wide range of nutrient substrates. Here, we show that effector T cells utilize inosine, as an alternative substrate, to support cell growth and function in the absence of glucose. T cells metabolize inosine into hypoxanthine and phosphorylated ribose by purine nucleoside phosphorylase (PNP). Using Stable Isotope-Resolved Metabolomics (SIRM), we demonstrated that ribose moiety of inosine can enter into central metabolic pathways to provide ATP and biosynthetic precursors. Accordingly, the dependence of T cells on extracellular glucose for growth and effector functions can be relieved by inosine. On the other hand, cancer cells display diverse capacity to utilize inosine as a carbon resource. Moreover, the supplement of inosine enhances the anti-tumor efficacy of immune-checkpoint blockade or adoptive T cell transfer, reflecting the capability of inosine in relieving tumor-imposed metabolic restrictions on T cells in vivo.