The thioredoxin-1 (Trx1) system is an important contributor to cellular redox balance and is a sensor of energy and glucose metabolism. Here we show critical c-Myc-dependent activation of the Trx1 system during thymocyte and peripheral T-cell proliferation, but repression during T-cell quiescence. Deletion of thioredoxin reductase-1 (Txnrd1) prevents expansion the CD4-CD8-thymocyte population, whereas Txnrd1 deletion in CD4+CD8+thymocytes does not affect further maturation and peripheral homeostasis of αβT cells. However, Txnrd1 is critical for expansion of the activated T-cell population during viral and parasite infection. Metabolomics show that TrxR1 is essential for the last step of nucleotide biosynthesis by donating reducing equivalents to ribonucleotide reductase. Impaired availability of 2′-deoxyribonucleotides induces the DNA damage response and cell cycle arrest of Txnrd1-deficient T cells. These results uncover a pivotal function of the Trx1 system in metabolic reprogramming of thymic and peripheral T cells and provide a rationale for targeting Txnrd1 in T-cell leukemia.