Single cell analysis of kynurenine and System L amino acid transport in T cells

Linda Sinclair (Lead / Corresponding author), Damien Neyens, George Ramsay, Peter Taylor, Doreen Cantrell (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)
148 Downloads (Pure)


The tryptophan metabolite kynurenine has critical immunomodulatory properties and can function as an aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) ligand. Here we show that the ability of T cells to transport kynurenine is restricted to cells activated by the T cell antigen receptor or pro-inflammatory cytokines. Kynurenine is transported across the T cell membrane by the System L transporter SLC7A5. Accordingly, the ability of kynurenine to activate AHR is restricted to T cells that express SLC7A5. We use the fluorescence spectral properties of kynurenine to develop a flow cytometry based assay for rapid, sensitive and quantitative measurement of the kynurenine transport capacity in a single cell. Our findings provide a method to assess the susceptibility of T cells to kynurenine, and a sensitive single cell assay to monitor system L amino acid transport.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1981 (2018)
Number of pages11
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2018


  • Biochemistry
  • Cell biology
  • Flow cytometry
  • T cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)
  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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