The antitumor activity of activated CD8+ T cells in the tumor microenvironment seems to be limited due to their being metabolically unfit. This metabolic unfitness is closely associated with T-cell exhaustion and impairment of memory formation, which are barriers to successful antitumor adoptive immunotherapy. We therefore assessed the role of glutamine metabolism in the antitumor activity of CD8+ T cells using a tumor-inoculated mouse model. The adoptive transfer of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells cultured under glutamine-restricted (dGln) conditions or CD8+ T cells treated with specific inhibitors of glutamine metabolism efficiently eliminated tumors and led to better survival of tumor-inoculated mice than with cells cultured under control (Ctrl) conditions. The decreased expression of PD-1 and increased Ki67 positivity among tumor-infiltrating CD8+ T cells cultured under dGln conditions suggested that the inhibition of glutamine metabolism prevents CD8+ T-cell exhaustion in vivo. Furthermore, the transferred CD8+ T cells cultured under dGln conditions expanded more efficiently against secondary OVA stimulation than did CD8+ T cells under Ctrl conditions. We found that the expression of a pro-survival factor and memory T cell-related transcription factors was significantly higher in CD8+ T cells cultured under dGln conditions than in those cultured under Ctrl conditions. Given these findings, our study uncovered an important role of glutamine metabolism in the antitumor activity of CD8+ T cells. The novel adoptive transfer of tumor-specific CD8+ T cells cultured in glutamine-restricted conditions may be a promising approach to improve the efficacy of cell-based adoptive immunotherapy.
Keywords: CD8+ T cells; T cell memory; adoptive immunotherapy; antitumor; glutaminnolysis.
© 2018 The Authors. Cancer Science published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of Japanese Cancer Association.