This study explores the regulation and importance of System L amino acid transport in a murine model of T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) caused by deletion of phosphatase and tensin homologue deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN). There has been a strong focus on glucose transport in leukemias but the present data show that primary T-ALL cells have increased transport of multiple nutrients. Specifically, increased leucine transport in T-ALL fuels mammalian target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) activity which then sustains expression of hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF1α) and c-Myc; drivers of glucose metabolism in T cells. A key finding is that PTEN deletion and phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-trisphosphate (PtdIns(3,4,5)P3) accumulation is insufficient to initiate leucine uptake, mTORC1 activity, HIF1α or c-Myc expression in T cells and hence cannot drive T-ALL metabolic reprogramming. Instead, a key regulator for leucine transport in T-ALL is identified as NOTCH. Mass spectrometry based proteomics identifies SLC7A5 as the predominant amino acid transporter in primary PTEN(-/-) T-ALL cells. Importantly, expression of SLC7A5 is critical for the malignant transformation induced by PTEN deletion. These data reveal the importance of regulated amino acid transport for T cell malignancies, highlighting how a single amino acid transporter can play a key role.Leukemia accepted article preview online, 26 May 2017. doi:10.1038/leu.2017.160.