Elevated lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) expression is associated with poor outcome in tumor patients. Here we show that LDHA-associated lactic acid accumulation in melanomas inhibits tumor surveillance by T and NK cells. In immunocompetent C57BL/6 mice, tumors with reduced lactic acid production (Ldhalow) developed significantly slower than control tumors and showed increased infiltration with IFN-γ-producing T and NK cells. However, in Rag2-/-γc-/- mice, lacking lymphocytes and NK cells, and in Ifng-/- mice, Ldhalow and control cells formed tumors at similar rates. Pathophysiological concentrations of lactic acid prevented upregulation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) in T and NK cells, resulting in diminished IFN-γ production. Database analyses revealed negative correlations between LDHA expression and T cell activation markers in human melanoma patients. Our results demonstrate that lactic acid is a potent inhibitor of function and survival of T and NK cells leading to tumor immune escape.
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